With the Rule 5 Draft on the horizon, this seems like the perfect year for the Padres to pick up somebody and see if they can stick with the club all year. What do you think?
-- Rich W., Waxhaw, N.C.

Honestly, I haven't really taken a look at who might be available in the Rule 5 Draft this year. There are always a few interesting names of players, once highly regarded, who, for whatever reason, aren't protected. Then there are a few sleepers who surprise everyone. It's really a crapshoot. The Padres took three players last season and none of them made it to the end of the season. Roster spots are precious during the season, and if you select players in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, they have to stick with you all season. My guess is the Padres might take a chance on a player, but not three like they did last December.

Can you please describe how it is determined whether a free agent is a Type A, Type B, etc.? There's always mention of how many Draft picks a team will get if a certain type of player leaves via free agency, but what is the criteria for each level?
-- Andrew K., El Cajon, Calif.

Good question, Andrew. Here's what I've got for you: The Elias Sports Bureau calculates ratings of players based on performance over the last two seasons. The top 20 percent of players at a position are Type A free agents. The ones who follow, those in the 21-40 percent range, qualify as Type B free agents.

What's the status on reliever Kevin Cameron? He had a great rookie year and would really help our troubled bullpen in 2009.
-- Danny L., St. Louis

The 2008 season was certainly a lost one for Cameron, who, as you stated, was good in his rookie season. Cameron got off to a bad start in Spring Training, suffering injuries to his thumb and hamstring and even a nasty bout with the flu. He only threw 30 innings between San Diego and the Minor Leagues after suffering a sprain of his right ulnar collateral ligament. But Cameron should be fine for Spring Training and ready to compete for a spot in a bullpen that could look a lot different in 2009 than it did in 2008.

With all the starting pitching questions looming, why have the Padres not given left-hander Justin Hampson a shot as a starting pitcher, given he has experience as a starter in his past? What's your take?
-- James D., Alhambra, Ill.

Have a question about the Padres?
Corey BrockE-mail your query to MLB.com Padres beat reporter Corey Brock for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
First Name, Last Initial:

Hometown:

Email Address:

Question:

I wonder myself if this is something the Padres have kicked around. Hampson has shown the ability to pitch in several roles: long relief, short relief and situational lefty. He has bailed the Padres out of some tough spots the last two seasons with his ability to pitch in long relief. I don't know of any immediate plans for the Padres to convert him to a starting pitcher, as I think they like his versatility coming out of the bullpen. I would expect he has a good chance to make the team coming out of Spring Training.

What kind of future does outfielder Will Venable have with the Padres?
-- Jeannie V., Sacramento, Calif.

From what I saw in September, I would say Venable has a bright future. He hit .264 over 110 at-bats after his promotion from Triple-A Portland where he had a big year (.292-14-58). I don't know if center field is where he'll end up eventually, maybe left field. But he was impressive at times at the plate and can take a walk. As it stands now, he'll likely be a candidate to win a reserve outfield spot on the team if you figure Chase Headley plays left field, Jody Gerut is in center field and Brian Giles is in right field.