San Diego Padres lineup projections

Since succeeding Jed Hoyer as the Padres general manager at the end of October, Josh Byrnes made seven trades including four major deals that brought left fielder Carlos Quentin, first baseman Yonder Alonso and right-handed, end-of-game relievers Andrew Cashner and Huston Street.

The biggest questions for the Padres this spring will be in the bullpen and the back end of the rotation. Only one position in the field appears to be open.

After ranking at or near the bottom of the National League last season, the Padres believe they have an improved lineup.

PROJECTED ROTATION:

1. RHP Tim Stauffer

2. LHP Cory Luebke

3. RHP Edinson Volquez

4. LHP Clayton Richard

5. RHPs Dustin Moseley or Anthony Bass or Micah Owings

The Padres have lost potential ace Mat Latos and veteran Aaron Harang from last year’s rotation. Latos was traded to Cincinnati for four players, including Alonso. Harang departed as a free agent for the Dodgers. “Volquez is the key,” said Byrnes of the right-hander who was also part of the Latos trade. Richard and Moseley are coming off shoulder surgery, although Moseley’s injury was to his non-pitching shoulder.

Moseley, Bass and free agent addition Owings are battling for two spots the No. 5 spot in the rotation and the long-man in the bullpen. Moseley likely has one of the two spots clinched.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:

RHP Huston Street, closer

RHP Andrew Cashner

RHP Luke Gregerson

RHP Ernesto Frieri

LHP Joe Thatcher

RHP Brad Boxberger

Moseley, Owings or Bass

Street was obtained from Colorado two days after free agent closer Heath Bell signed with Miami. Cashner came to the Padres from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for former first base prospect Anthony Rizzo.

The long man will likely be either Moseley or Owings, with Bass leading the rotation at Class AAA Tucson if he doesn’t win the rotation spot.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

1. CF Cameron Maybin or RF Will Venable

2. SS Jason Bartlett or 2B Orlando Hudson

3. 1B Yonder Alonso or 3B Chase Headley

4. LF Carlos Quentin

5. Headley or Alonso

6. C Nick Hundley

7. Maybin or RF Chris Denorfia

8. Hudson or Bartlett

Venable could hit in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching. There is also a possibility that Headley could hit second. The biggest test could be finding a spot in the lineup for 1B-LF-3B-RF Jesus Guzman if he again hits .312 like he did over the second half of last season.

The Padres believe the line-drive hitting Alonso will find Petco Park to his liking while Quentin has the power to reach the seats in left.

Last year the Padres ranked last in the National League in home runs while having the second-most strikeouts. “We’re not leading the league in strikeouts again in 2012,” promised manager Bud Black, who will be working with two new hitting coaches in Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell.

Black also hopes the addition of left-handed bats Alonso, outfielder Mark Kotsay and catcher John Baker will improve the Padres’ 2011 mark of .229 against right-handed pitching.

TOP ROOKIES: Although the Padres’ farm system has gone from being one of the worst to one of the best over the last four years, most of the top prospects are at least a year away and most of the closer ones debuted with the Padres last season. The top newcomer is 1B Yonder Alonso, who came to the Padres in the Mat Latos trade. Two other acquisitions in that trade, RHP Brad Boxberger and C Yasmani Grandal could be on the Padres by the end of the season with Boxberger having a shot at making the bullpen out of spring training. Expect to see RHPs Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland making a start sometime during 2012.