Padres prioritize Rule 5 picks in final roster

Green: Strategy geared toward keeping 'as much talent as humanly possible' in organization

Padres prioritize Rule 5 picks in final roster

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres unveiled their Opening Day roster on Saturday, making a series of surprising moves -- one of which bordered on shocking -- to get there.

Infielder Cory Spangenberg, who was in the mix for the starting job at third base, will open the season at Triple-A El Paso, a thoroughly unexpected decision. Spangenberg missed almost all of the 2016 season because of a torn left quad, and the Padres want to ensure he receives consistent at-bats after losing out to Ryan Schimpf at third.

"[Spangbenberg] missed all of last season pretty much," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He needs consistent at-bats. We believe long term in his future. We love the way he played in camp. But it just wasn't right to do a time share at this point in time in his career. He's a big option for us in the future. He could be back here very, very quickly

Jabari Blash, Phil Maton, Collin Cowgill and Dusty Coleman will also begin the year in Triple-A. Those moves mean all three Rule 5 Draft selections -- catcher Luis Torrens, shortstop Allen Cordoba and right-hander Miguel Diaz -- will begin the year with the club. So will catcher Hector Sanchez, infielder Luis Sardinas and center fielder Manuel Margot, the club's top prospect according to MLBPipeline.com.

Spangenberg's solo home run

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from Saturday's announcement is that the Padres prioritized keeping their players. The Rule 5 selections -- along with Sardinas, who was out of options -- couldn't be sent to the Minor Leagues.

"The roster composition we chose to go with keeps all of the talent within the organization," Green said. "We didn't expose anybody to waivers. We didn't risk losing anybody. ... If you thin your depth really quickly and start sending guys away, you look down to the Minor Leagues, and you don't have Jabari or Cory to call up in those key moments. While those are tough things for them to swallow at this point in time, for us, we're hanging to as much talent as humanly possible."

Blash's homer to right

The most unconventional aspect of the Padres' roster comes in contrasting their catching depth with their outfielders. In one sense, the Friars are carrying more catchers -- Austin Hedges, Christian Bethancourt, Torrens and Sanchez -- than primary outfielders -- Margot, Travis Jankowski and Hunter Renfroe.

"In one world you could write it as though [we] have four catchers on [our] roster," Green said. "In another, you've got a pinch-hit bat in Hector Sanchez, you've got a backup catcher in Luis Torrens and you've got a pitcher in Christian Bethancourt. That's the way we're looking at it right now."

Sanchez's RBI double

As for the outfield, Green expects Cordoba -- who impressed during his time in left and center field this spring -- to serve as the primary backup. He added that Margot will play center with Jankowski shifting to left. Both are considered elite defensive center fielders. But Jankowski has spent time playing the corners in the past, which factored into Green's decision to move him.

"It's got the potential to be [the best defensive outfield in baseball]," Green said. "It's really what those guys make of it. They're not lacking in any skill necessary to be the best in baseball."

Rounding out the roster, southpaw Jose Torres received the final bullpen spot, beating out right-hander Maton. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Keith Hessler was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man for Sanchez.

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.