Jankowski, Dickerson to lead young OF in '17

San Diego will have five outfielders competing for four spots in spring

Jankowski, Dickerson to lead young OF in '17

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' outfield in 2016 was a revolving door of sorts.

San Diego started a trio of veterans on Opening Day, and all three -- Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr. and Jon Jay -- were either traded or injured by midseason. In September, the Friars routinely trotted out an all-rookie outfield, offering a glimpse into the club's future.

The 2017 season figures to bring a bit more outfield stability. There have been trade rumblings surrounding Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson, but the Padres appear content to enter the season with their outfield as currently comprised.

From there, it's a numbers game. Christian Bethancourt is expected to serve as a utility man who can play both corner-outfield spots, leaving the Padres with four places on their roster for five young outfielders.

"There's five guys we genuinely believe are legitimate Major League outfielders," Padres manager Andy Green said at the Winter Meetings. "That's a point we feel really good about. My early expectation in December would be going with four out of five of those guys -- and one of those guys ends up in the Minor Leagues."

So who's the odd-man out? That decision will be influenced by a number of factors, including potential injuries or roster moves. But here's an early breakdown of the Padres' outfield race.

Near certainties

Green handed Jankowski an Opening Day job last season, and the 25-year-old speedster quickly proved he belongs in the Majors. Jankowski spent the first half of the season as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, earning an everyday role when Jay went down injured. Jankowski still needs to solve left-handed pitching, but his .332 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases as a rookie make him a very intriguing leadoff option.

Jankowski swipes his 30th base


Hampered slightly by a right hip injury, Dickerson wore down a bit toward the end of the season, but his power numbers should cement an everyday role for him in 2017. Dickerson was one of the catalysts for the Padres' 25-game home run streak in July, and his .788 OPS as a rookie was the 10th highest in Padres history among players with at least 250 plate appearances. At 26, Dickerson has established himself as a Major League talent, and he's a safe bet for one of the four outfield jobs.

Dickerson's solo homer

Very likely

Hunter Renfroe
It would be premature to call Renfroe a lock for the Opening Day roster, given that the prodigious slugger has only recorded 35 Major League at-bats. But barring a free-agent signing, it's hard to see a way in which Renfroe doesn't open the season in right field. The Padres' No. 3 prospect, Renfroe flat out mashed upon his debut last September. He hit .371 with a 1.189 OPS and four home runs -- including one moonshot onto the roof of the Western Metal building in left field at Petco Park. He does need to cut down on his strikeout rate, but after taking home Pacific Coast League MVP honors in Triple-A last season, he's proven he deserves a big league chance.

Renfroe crushes 434-ft HR

On the bubble

Jabari Blash
Blash struggled mightily during a couple brief Major League stints in 2016. And when he finally got the chance to play every day, the rookie slugger went down with a left hand injury and missed the final month and a half. But the Padres aren't going to give up on Blash, who has mashed dingers at an outrageous clip during his time in the Minors. Again, he'll have some competition for playing time in 2017, but at the Winter Meetings, Green made a point to note that Blash is squarely in the outfield mix.

Blash's solo homer

Manuel Margot
Among the five outfielders listed, Margot might have the highest ceiling. He's also the youngest -- just 22 years old -- and there's good reason to believe the Padres would consider giving him more time at Triple-A to start 2017. Also, if Margot isn't recalled until May, San Diego would gain an extra year of team control. Still, there's a case to be made that Margot belongs on the Opening Day roster, given his elite outfield defense and penchant for hitting line drives.

• Margot making waves in Dominican Winter League

Margot's RBI double in the 4th

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.