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Utility Infielder Competition

Several players are in camp with a chance to make the opening day roster as a utility infielder. Let's take a look at the candidates.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Manager Andy Green has made it clear that no job is safe.  Everyone will have to earn their role.  As we take a look around the spring training invitees, we see several players with experience and flexibility around the infield.  Starting roles appear defined, but nothing is certain.  Taking nothing for granted, I'm going to run down the 2B/3B/SS picture in order of service time:

Skip Schumaker:  The oldest and most experienced of this bunch, Schumaker is in camp with a minor league contract.  Having spent most of his career in the Cardinals organization, Schumaker brings veteran leadership, a versatile glove, a lefty bat, and a gritty style to the Padres organization.  He can play adequate defense at 2B and all three outfield positions while his lefty bat can get him on base at a pretty good clip.  His contract status might place him in El Paso to start the season, but it's clear that he's making his presence known in camp this spring.

Alexei Ramirez:  An eight-year veteran, Ramirez has played the vast majority of his career at shortstop, and was brought in via free agency from this offseason to man that position for the Padres after spending his entire career in the White Sox organization.  Having never suffered a serious injury, he's averaged over 150 games per season through his career, and the organization is expecting a similar workload from him this year.  At age 34, his defense has started to show signs of decline, but is still a steady glove up the middle.  After a solid 2014 season at the plate, he struggled throughout the 2015 season, but the White Sox offense struggled as a whole.  Perhaps a change of scenery can breathe new life in to his bat.  It's clear that he is set to be the Padres' starting shortstop

Adam Rosales:  Journeyman utility infielder Rosales was signed to a minor league contract after time in the Oakland A's and Texas Rangers organizations.  The 32-year-old can play steady defense at 2B, 3B, SS, 1B, and even the corner outfield positions.  His light bat and positional versatility make him a right-handed Alexi Amarista, but his veteran experience is an asset, whether he's in El Paso or San Diego.

Alexi Amarista:  The versatile Little Ninja is a fan favorite.  Through four years with the Padres, he's flashed above-average leather at SS, 2B, 3B, and even CF.  A year ago, he was paired with Clint Barmes as the lefty hitter of a platoon at shortstop.  While the defense was adequate, Amarista failed to break out of a season-long slump at the plate.  2016 is the final year of his contract, due $1.35m, with one more year of arbitration to follow.  The incumbent utility backup has some stiff competition to fend off to make the opening day roster.

Yangervis Solarte:  Traded to the Padres by the Yankees in the Chase Headley deal, Solarte was a surprise candidate for 2015 Padres MVP.  Taking over the third base job after Will Middlebrooks lost the job, the switch-hitting Solarte combined solid defense with a scappy bat to make a big impression on the field.  While we got more than we expected from him last year, a triple-slash of .270/.320/.428 still places him in the bottom half of starting third basemen.  Capable at 2B and 1B, he might be better suited as a backup/pinch-hitter, but he's the best option at third base on the roster as it stands.

Jemile Weeks:  A mix of speed and power made Weeks a touted prospect, and a .303/.340/.421 rookie season with 22 steals in 2011 gave the A's hope of great things.  That early success has eluded Weeks as he has spent most of the past four years in the minor leagues with the A's, Orioles, and Red Sox organizations.  Defensively, Weeks has experience mostly at 2B, SS and CF, drawing praise with his defense at each post.  The switch-hitter still has the power in his bat to compliment some speed on the basepaths.  The typical "change of scenery" candidate, Weeks looks to resurrect his career with the Padres.

Cory Spangenberg:  Drafted in the first round in 2011, Spangenberg came in to his own in 2015.  Starting 2B Jedd Gyorko was sent down to El Paso in June, and Spangy made the best of regular playing time with a triple-slash of .301/.366/.440 from June 2 through the end of the season.  His combination of a lefty contact-first bat with basepath speed makes him a prime leadoff candidate.  The slick, reliable glove and developing bat has earned him a head up on his competition and is likely to be the Padres first option at second base.

Jose Pirela:  Another player traded from Yankees, Pirela came to the Padres organization this offseason in a swap for minor league pitcher Ronald Herrera.  Heralded as a bat-first utility player, Pirela has seen playing time at every position around the field through his minor league career.  His limited time with the Yankees was spent mostly at 2B, but much of his early minor league career was spent at shortstop ... but it's been four years since he logged meaningful time there.  Scouting reports indicate a reliable but unspectacular glove, and a righty bat with a propensity for contact.  He could be a candidate for the starting job at 2B or 3B, but a backup role is more likely.

Nick Noonan:  The native San Diegan is excited for a chance to play for his hometown team.  A first-round draft pick in 2007, Noonan has spent his entire professional career in the Giants organization.  Signed this offseason as a minor league free agent, Noonan comes to camp bringing a set of infielder's gloves that should play well at SS, 2B, or 3B.  Prior to the 2007 draft, his righty bat drew comparisons to Chase Utley, but has hit for neither power nor average at any level.  Still, he has potential to be a key piece as a utility backup on the Padres roster, whether it's out of spring training or later in the season.

Jose Rondon:  Traded to the Padres from the Angels along with R.J. Alvarez, Elliot Morris, and Taylor Lindsey for Huston Street and Trevor Gott in 2014, Rondon was added to the 40-man roster in November to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.  Having never played above Double-A ball, Rondon is a long shot to see time with the Padres before September.  Still, he plays very good defense at shortstop and the 21-year-old is developing steadily with the bat.

Carlos Asuaje:  Overshadowed by top prospects Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra, Asuaje may be the first player in the Craig Kimbrel trade to see time in the big leagues.  Experienced at 2B and 3B as well as LF, the 24-year-old Asuaje is known more for a lefty bat that makes a lot of contact for a surprising amount of power.  He might not have the high ceiling of Guerra and Margot, but he has the highest floor of the bunch.  Having spent all of 2015 in Double-A ball, this is his first big league camp, so a cup of coffee in the 2016 may be a reach, but he has a chance to impress the coaching staff this spring.

The Padres have a deep talent pool of middle infielders in camp this season.  It's going to be fun to watch the competitions and see who comes out to an introduction on opening day.