Opening Day 2018 is still five weeks away. No exhibition games have been played. Full squads reported this week, with full squad workouts finally beginning.
The San Diego Padres have several questions to answer between now and March 29. For one thing, they need to decide who will man the corner outfield positions. The team has six players auditioning for two positions. Take your pick.
Another series of questions surround the starting pitching rotation. This is another situation where Andy Green has to settle a logjam. As many as eight pitchers will spend the next month competing for five spots in the starting rotation.
One question will get kicked around by fans and analysts between now and then — who will be the Opening Day starter?
Clayton Richard, Dinelson Lamet, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Perdomo, Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, Tyson Ross, and Matt Strahm will be auditioning to be starters. This list doesn’t include prospects who have been invited to camp.
Green said earlier this month that only Richard and Mitchell are guaranteed spots in the rotation, while Lamet and Perdomo have an “upper hand” over the rest of the competition.
It will be at least a month before an Opening Day starter is named. It could even be that long before the starting rotation is nailed down. However, it’s still fun to speculate on these things early.
Let’s take a look at who could be on the mound at Petco Park on March 29.
Richard was given a two-year, $6 million extension last September. He wasn’t the ace last season. That title went to Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin signed a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers back in December, opening the door for Richard to be the team’s ace in 2018.
Richard is a veteran who is loved and respected in the clubhouse. He was retained not just to be a pitcher, but to be a mentor for the young pitchers on the roster. After 2018, it’s possible he could have something other than a starting role.
Richard’s seniority could get him the Opening Day nod.
Mitchell was acquired from the New York Yankees with Chase Headley. The Yankees were looking to dump salary and wanted to move Headley. The Padres offered up Jabari Blash, and the Yankees sent Headley back to San Diego with Mitchell in tow.
Mitchell has a decent curveball and an above-average fastball, according to Fangraphs. He’s struggled at the major league level, and frankly, nothing about his resume is really that impressive.
However, he is guaranteed a rotation spot from the get-go. Green must already see something that we haven’t.
Lamet enters spring training as maybe the likely candidate to get the Opening Day start. He blew fans away when he was called up from Triple-A El Paso last season.
Lamet has a filthy slider and a pretty good fastball. He was the most exciting pitcher in the rotation last season. Don’t be surprised to see him on the mound on March 29.
Ross started on Opening Day for San Diego in 2016. It went anything but well. He got rocked by the Los Angeles Dodgers. In addition, he suffered an injury that shelved him for the rest of the season.
After spending a season in Texas, Ross is back with the Padres on a minor league deal. He was invited to spring training and is competing for a spot in the rotation.
Ross starting on Opening Day is perhaps the least likely scenario of these four. However, it is something to consider, being that he did it two years ago.