Inbox: What are Padres' plans at shortstop?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers fans' questions

Inbox: What are Padres' plans at shortstop?

What is the plan at shortstop for 2018? Fernando Tatis Jr. is still a ways away. Are we still looking for a rental? Is Erick Aybar an option for '18 again?
-- Bryan A., San Diego

It wouldn't be a Padres offseason without question marks surrounding the future at shortstop. The 2017 campaign certainly tipped the scales in favor of Tatis winning that spot eventually. At 18, he set the single-season homer record with Class A Fort Wayne. Then Tatis made the jump to Double-A San Antonio, where he held his own. He is No. 55 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, and he is ranked fourth on San Diego's Top 30 Prospects list.

That said, Tatis won't make an impact at the big league level until 2019 at the earliest. The Padres need a shortstop for next year, and right now that spot is wide open. Dusty Coleman, Allen Cordoba and Jose Rondon are internal options. As is Yangervis Solarte, though shortstop is not his ideal position.

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Frankly, those options are not enough. San Diego needs at least one player with more experience at the position. Given the organization's expectations for Tatis -- and some other prospects in the system -- I don't expect the Padres to make a trade. That leaves free agency, where Aybar is one option on a very thin market, which will also include Alcides Escobar and J.J. Hardy.

Going into next season, what is the plan for the three Rule 5 Draft picks?
-- Eric, San Diego

The Padres made a small bit of history by holding onto three Rule 5 Draft picks for the duration of the season. So what happens next with Miguel Diaz, Luis Torrens and Allen Cordoba? It's likely that all three will report to Major League camp next spring, where they'll be given a chance to win back their roster spots -- though it's hard to envision that happening.

Diaz has a clear 2018 roster case as a reliever, but San Diego views him as a starter in the long term. He's probably on course to open the year at San Antonio.

Torrens is practically a lock to begin the year in the Minors. Injuries held him back during his time in the Yankees' system. And he obviously didn't get much game action with the Padres this year. Torrens has been a professional for five seasons, and he's received only 672 plate appearances. He needs regular playing time, and that will come at either Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore or San Antonio. (Essentially, he'll be wherever fellow catcher Austin Allen, the club's No. 20 prospect, is not.)

Then there's Cordoba, who has proven himself very capable of serving in a super-utility role. But San Diego wants to see what he has to offer as a primary shortstop. That chance won't come at Double-A, where either Tatis or Javier Guerra is likely to start the 2018 season. I wouldn't be shocked to see Cordoba -- who held his own against big league pitching during the first half -- open the season at Triple-A El Paso.

Cordoba's dazzling play at short

What's a realistic expectation for Wil Myers next season? Will he take a step forward after taking a step back?
-- Kyle

It's been a grind for Myers this season, his first since signing a six-year extension last offseason. His on-base percentage and batting average have dipped. And while Myers is still hitting home runs, his power seems to come in spurts and disappear for prolonged stretches.

Myers has now spent parts of five seasons in the Majors, and he's up over 2,200 plate appearances. It's fair to ask whether his current career slash line of .254/.330/.437 is simply indicative of the player he is. Having watched Myers when he's hot, I'm not buying that. Last June, he was legitimately the best hitter in baseball. This April, Myers mashed as well.

It's hard to see Myers joining the upper echelon of first basemen, curently occupied by Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt. But based on WAR, Myers has been worth only about one win this season. For the money the Padres have committed to him, he needs to be better than that in 2018. It's fair to ask for Myers' on-base percentage to sit around .350 and for his slugging percentage to push .500. His defense needs to improve. (There's reason to believe it can, after a strong 2016 season at first base.) Next season will serve as a bit of a crossroads in Myers' career. He needs to be a 4-WAR type player.

Myers' two-homer game

Is Brad Hand a legitimate closer for a contender?
-- Johnny, San Diego

The short answer is "Yes." Hand would absolutely be a serviceable closer for a contending team. He's proven as much over the past two years -- and more specifically since he was handed the closer's role last month. But Hand's role on a contender certainly wouldn't be limited to closing games.

If the Padres shop Hand during the offseason -- as is widely expected -- I'd guess most suitors will view him as a late-inning weapon with more than one role. Can he save games? Sure. But Hand can also pitch multiple innings, and he's especially useful in high-leverage spots against lefties. In short, he would be effective in just about any bullpen, anywhere.

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.