San Diego a playground for young talent in '17

San Diego a playground for young talent in '17

SAN DIEGO -- If 2016 offered a brief glimpse into the Padres' future, then the new season figures to put that future on full display.

The Friars enter 2017 with one of the most inexperienced rosters in baseball, staunchly committed to giving their youngsters a chance to shine.

"There's going to be opportunity for guys to establish themselves," Padres skipper Andy Green said at the Winter Meetings.

Added general manager A.J. Preller: "That's probably going to be the direction that gets us into a winning environment -- is to find out about some of these guys."

Of course, the Padres' youth brings with it a number of question marks. Here's a look at the five most important storylines facing San Diego in 2017.

1. How well can the Padres develop their young talent?

Of all the questions facing the Padres in 2017, this will likely have the biggest impact on the direction of the franchise. And it applies on multiple levels.

In the Majors, youngsters like Austin Hedges, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Luis Perdomo quite clearly possess potential. They'll be given the chance to realize it on a regular basis in 2017.

Perdomo secures complete game

Perhaps more importantly, the Padres' recent commitment to their farm system has the organization brimming with lower-level talent. The development of those players -- Anderson Espinoza, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer and Josh Naylor among them -- could make all the difference down the road.

2. Is this the Padres' outfield of the future?

Margot and Renfroe, the Padres' Nos. 2 and 3 prospects, respectively, received their big league callups in September. But for all intents and purposes, 2017 offers the first chance for the rookie duo to make a mark on the organization.

Padres rely on young outfielders

Margot -- with his elite outfield defense and knack for hitting line drives -- and Renfroe -- with his overwhelming power potential -- could become fixtures in the Petco Park outfield. With Alex Dickerson and Travis Jankowski already on board, the Friars hope they have an outfield core in place for years to come.

3. Has the Hedges era begun?

For years, Hedges was the Padres' catcher of the future. As of Dec. 2 -- when San Diego dealt Derek Norris to the Nationals -- Hedges is now the catcher of the present.

Preller on Hedges' opportunity

Much has been made about Hedges' prowess behind the plate, and rightfully so. He's been touted across the baseball world as a brilliant defensive backstop, and there seems to be little doubt that the 24-year-old can handle a pitching staff.

But can he hit? He's done so in the Minors, posting a .326/.353/.597 slash line for Triple-A El Paso in 2016. Yet it hasn't carried over at the Major League level (in an admittedly small sample). Hedges will almost certainly get the chance to play every day in '17. And to take the next step, he'll need to start solving big league pitching.

4. Who eats the innings?

As it stands, none of the five rotation spots has been locked up -- though newly signed Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin, as well as Perdomo and Christian Friedrich, are early favorites. Both Chacin and Richard reportedly turned down more lucrative offers elsewhere for a chance to start with the Padres. Chacin is currently pitching for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. In five outings there, he has posted a 2.54 ERA.

Richard, Padres agree to deal

The other spot could come down to a competition between Jarred Cosart, Paul Clemens and Cesar Vargas, but the Padres would like to add at least one more candidate to the mix before Spring Training.

Of course, an Opening Day staff almost never persists throughout the entire season. (By August, every member of the Padres' 2016 season-opening rotation was either hurt or traded.) With that in mind, youngsters like Dinelson Lamet, Walker Lockett and Michael Kelly could be given a first crack at the big leagues as the year progresses.

5. Time to commit to Myers?

Wil Myers was undoubtedly the biggest bright spot for the Padres in 2016. In his first fully healthy big league campaign, the 26-year-old first baseman earned an All-Star nod and established himself as a potential franchise cornerstone.

Green on Myers' bright future

As it stands, Myers is set to remain in San Diego through the 2019 season. But his agent and the club are in early discussions regarding an extension. It's a move that makes plenty of sense, given that Myers will be in his prime when the Padres' lower-level talent reaches the Majors.

There are certainly question marks surrounding a possible extension, most notably Myers' history of wrist ailments. But his 2016 performance -- and the fact that he stayed healthy throughout the season -- might be enough to quell the Padres' concerns.

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