Farm system rich with shortstop talent

Guerra, Giron, Rondon provide Padres depth, flexibility

Farm system rich with shortstop talent

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have been searching for long-term stability at shortstop for the better part of a decade. Since Khalil Greene's career began to decline in 2008, the club has used 23 players at short, and only three -- Jason Bartlett, Everth Cabrera and Alexi Amarista -- have played a full season's worth of games there.

With one glance at the farm system, however, it's apparent that the next 10 years of Padres shortstops should be much steadier than the past 10. Currently, shortstops occupy three of the top five spots on San Diego's Top 30 Prospects list -- including Javier Guerra, who came over from Boston in the Craig Kimbrel trade this past offseason.

Along with Guerra (ranked No. 2), Ruddy Giron sits No. 4 and Jose Rondon comes in at No. 5. Rondon, 22, is the closest to being big league ready, but by 2018, all three could make the jump, according to MLBPipeline.

The Padres' depth at the position does not equate to a logjam. It's quite the opposite, actually. The wealth of options gives them flexibility.

"You draft a shortstop, he falls off to third base or second base or he goes to the outfield," manager Andy Green said. "The shortstop is usually the best athlete overall that can play anywhere on the diamond. The more and more of those you can stockpile, it gives you options down the road -- and people always want them, too."

All three prospects begin their 2016 regular season on Thursday night -- Rondon for Double-A San Antonio, Guerra for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Giron for Class A Fort Wayne.

Top Prospects: Giron, SD

Giron, who turned 19 in January, spent last season at Fort Wayne and impressed, hitting .285/.335/.407. He figured to be on track for a promotion to Lake Elsinore -- until Guerra's arrival.

"Honestly, [Giron] probably was ready for [Class A Advanced], but he's a little younger and doesn't have quite the experience that Javy's had. ... It was kind of natural where those guys slot in," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "I think it was really just a decision for us to make sure that all three of our shortstops were playing every day."

Playing in his first full professional season, Guerra batted .279/.329/.449 with 15 homers last season for Class A Greenville. He also went deep twice for Panama in World Baseball Classic qualifying last month. Of the three, Guerra would appear to have the highest likelihood of remaining at shortstop.

But if it sounds like there's a lot of competition within the organization for that future job -- well, the players themselves aren't viewing it that way.

"We've been focusing on the team aspect and working together and learning together," Guerra said through a translator this spring. "There hasn't really been competition between any of the other shortstops. The focus has been on team."

Top Prospects: Rondon, SD

Said Rondon: "We've always gotten along really well and been good friends. Guerra obviously joined us this year, but we get along well. Each one of us is working on what we need to work on -- and we're doing it as teammates."

At some point, San Diego will probably have to settle on one of the three as its shortstop of the future -- potentially moving the other two to different positions or even using them as trade chips.

For now, however, 34-year-old Alexei Ramirez is a perfectly viable option for the Padres at the big league level. Those decisions on Guerra, Giron and Rondon are a long way away.

"It's a good problem to have," said Green.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.