Padres rookie Jackson Merrill deserves to be an All-Star

Jun 30, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Jackson Merrill (3) before the start of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Padres rookie centerfielder Jackson Merrill has been red hot lately. In fact, he’s played his way into the conversation of being an All-Star this month.

Think about where Jackson Merrill was four months ago. He had played just five games in the outfield as a professional in parts of three seasons in the Padres minor league system. He was a full-time shortstop. The Padres entered camp with the idea that Merrill would convert to being an outfielder. More specifically, a centerfielder, the most demanding of the three outfield spots. All this while being 20 years old, having played just 46 games above Single-A.

Becoming a viable centerfielder on the fly was basically his only chance to break camp with the team. To say he took that and ran with it would be a massive understatement.

It would be one thing if he held his own with the bat while struggling to adjust defensively in Petco Park’s massive outfield at a foreign position. Or if he used pure athleticism to make up for his lack of elite fundamentals and technique in the outfield, but his bat lagged behind against the best pitchers on planet Earth.

Except Merrill has excelled at both.

He has been consistent at the plate, with no months batting below .279 in three months as a big leaguer so far. In June, he appeared to unlock a next level. In 28 games in June, he batted .320 with a .996 OPS and nine home runs. The Baltimore native makes a serious case for National League Player of the Month, much less rookie.

That puts his season average at .294.

Merrill deserves to hear his name called when the All-Star teams are announced in Arlington on July 16. Usually, each league has between six and eight outfielders, depending on injury replacements, named as All-Stars.

Merrill should be there to represent the Padres.

His numbers add up. Among National League outfielders, he ranks third in average, fourth in fWAR (2.5), fourth in hits (85), fifth in wRC+ (128), sixth in OPS (.792), and seventh in home runs (12). In other words, Merrill is a consensus top seven outfielder in the National League currently. That should be enough to get the call.

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Not only that but defensively, he looks like he’s played outfield his whole life. He ranks in the 86th percentile for Outs Above Average, 93rd percentile for arm strength, and posts a respectable 1 Defensive Run Saved in centerfield.

Yes, he is a rookie. But the numbers don’t care about experience. Merrill has been one of the most productive outfielders in the National League. It certainly helps that players like Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper moved to the infield. Also, Fernando Tatis Jr. is now on the shelf through the All-Star break. The field is weaker than normal. That should be to Merrill’s advantage.

Currently, the finalists for NL outfielder in fan voting are the Padres’ own Jurickson Profar, followed by Christian Yelich, Brandon Marsh, Teoscar Hernandez, and Nick Castellanos. That doesn’t leave much room for a guy like Merrill to sneak in. Also, make sure to vote for Profar and company on the finalist’s ballot.

It still seems unlikely that Merrill actually gets the call, given his rookie status and the sheer volume of outfielders in the National League. If he is left out, it should be considered a snub, given his quality numbers.

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