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Youngest Padre Turning Heads After Meteoric Rise

Jackson Merrill has stepped into the Padres’ starting lineup at an incredibly difficult time. However, the youngster has risen to the occasion.

Youngest Padre Turning Heads After Meteoric Rise

Merrill turned 21 in April and spent the last three years tearing up the minor leagues as an infielder. But during the offseason, Padres General Manager AJ Preller moved star outfielder Juan Soto, along with the starting center fielder and Gold Glove winner Trent Grisham, to the Yankees in exchange for much-needed pitching depth. This left a hole in the outfield the Padres couldn’t afford to fill with free agency.

A transition from infield to outfield would not be strange for the Padres organization. Two of the starting outfielders, Jurickson Profar and Fernando Tatis Jr., had both made the move successfully, and Tatis had adapted so well that he went on to win the 2023 Platinum Glove.

Merrill’s Rise To The MLB Roster

The 2021 first-round draft pick started his career with the Padres organization in the Arizona Complex League. He was selected 27th overall and spent the remainder of the 2021 season at this level before being promoted to Single-A Lake Elsinore ten games into the 2022 season. During his tenure with the Storm, he slashed .325/.387/.482 with five homers and 34 RBI in 45 games. He would start the 2023 season in High-A Fort Wayne before spending the second half in Double-A San Antonio, posting a combined .277/.326/.444 paired with 15 home runs and 64 RBI across 114 games.

Merrill was consistently one of the Padres’ top prospects, making headlines with his quick rise through the organization.

Reporting to Peoria ahead of this year’s spring camp, which would be Merrill’s third spring with the team, the expectations were very clear for the top prospect: Make the MLB roster as the starting center fielder for the San Diego Padres.

The youngster did exactly that. In a shortened spring training, the Maryland native played all 15 games in the outfield. He posted an impressive .333/.378/.548 slash line and utilized his natural speed and athleticism to cover plenty of ground patrolling center field. The question remained: was Merrill ready for the spotlight?

MLB Successes

The answer to that question has so far been an emphatic yes. In the face of growing unrest and higher expectations from Padres fans who have watched talented teams consistently fall short of their goals, Merrill has risen to the occasion.

On March 20, 2024, Merrill made his Major League debut 6,062 miles away from San Diego in Seoul, South Korea, against the division rival Dodgers.

Since then, he has proven the trust placed in him by the organization right. In 68 games this season, Merrill has hit .279/.314/.389. The lefty has swiped nine bags while slugging five home runs, eight doubles, a triple, and 26 RBI. The defense has been incredible as well. He’s been turning out web gems on a regular basis, and his arm has been turning into a legitimate weapon.

This success story came to a new height during Wednesday’s matchup against the Oakland A’s. In the fifth inning, Merrill launched his fourth home run of the year, a solo shot. With the game even at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Merrill stepped in to face Mason Miller. Miller has been one of the best closers in baseball this season, notching 12 saves across 13 opportunities. Merrill took the first pitch he saw 369 feet down the line to send the Friars home happy, 5-4.

 

At 21 years and 54 days, he became the youngest player to record a walk-off home run as part of a multi-home run performance. He also became the youngest Padre to record a walk-off blast.

Main Photo Credits: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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