Jackson Merrill proving his worth early in Padres camp

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The San Diego Padres roster is full of All-Star caliber players.

However, the unit as a whole is made up of players who are initially from other organizations.

Pedro Avila, Tom Cosgrove, Adrian Morejon, Matt Waldron, and Luis Campusano are homegrown talents but are far from superstars in the game. Each may reach their lofty goals in time, but they have a long road ahead of them in the game.

In recent memory, the San Diego Padres have traded their talented young players. MacKenzie Gore, Jack Suwinski, Ty France, CJ Abrams, Owen Caissie, Cal Quantrill, Xavier Edwards, James Wood, and others are now rostered on other franchises. Each was drafted by the Padres only to be dealt as the Padres looked for relevant major league talent.

That was the way of A.J. Preller and his staff. But times may have changed.

With a burgeoning farm system once again, the Padres sit with a Top-5 unit in all of baseball.

The team has five men in the top 100 prospects in all of baseball (and one would argue that Leodalis De Vries will be on this list soon), and though they do not have the depth they once had, there is reason to believe that the Padres will once again produce young international players this coming season who will further solidify the system. Chris Kemp and his staff have a track record of that, and there is no reason not to believe the next Sammy Zavala is waiting in the wings.

For now, the Padres roster is full of uncertainty. There are several prospects in camp with the Padres this year. You get a sense these men are here for more than just show like seasons past. Jackson Merrill, Jakob Marsee, Nathan Martorella, and Graham Pauley are all very raw. None of them have played at the Triple-A level. But they are all left-handed hitters, and they are all coming off productive years in the Padres system.

The most heralded is Jackson Merrill, who looks like an odds-on favorite to begin the season with the Padres. As Fernando Tatis Jr. did in 2019 at the age of 20, Merrill has a chance to make the team out of the spring without any at-bats at the Triple-A level. If you ask Tatis, Merrill is ready now. “I’ve seen enough; this guy should break with the club…age is just a number,” Tatis said early in camp.

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Merrill is playing left field and doing it impressively. The athletic youngster has already made some very nice plays in a position that is relatively new to him. Merrill played five games in left last year for the San Antonio Missions. For the Padres in 2024, there is a chance he will begin the year with the team. Given his age and inexperience, the only way he would make the team is to play each and every day. To have him sit on the bench while at the major league level makes zero sense.

That would be a massive ask for the 20-year-old infielder/outfielder, but the ball is in his court.

The game of baseball is a joy to Jackson Merrill. “It’s so fun coming out here,” Merrill said after the Padres win on Sunday in Mesa against the Cubs. His admiration for the game shows in his style of play. His infectious attitude will go a long way to create a youthful tone in the Padres clubhouse. Something the team lacked last year.

If Merrill continues to show his knack for handling the bat, he will easily make this team. For the Padres, there may be growing pains. In fact, you are almost guaranteed to see issues from the young player. However, the good should easily outweigh the bad; you never know with young players. Jackson Merrill could very well be the next superstar in the league. He has that kind of upside to his game.

“It’s just baseball, man,” Merrill proclaimed with a smile.

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