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Padres' top prospect Merrill to make opening-day roster

Jackson Merrill San Diego Padres Jackson Merrill - Getty Images

San Diego Padres top prospect Jackson Merrill will travel with the team to South Korea for their season opener on March 20, manager Mike Schildt said on Tuesday. 

Merrill, 20, is the No. 2 ranked prospect in the Padres system, and 12th-ranked prospect in all of MLB, per MLB Pipeline. 

The youngster was drafted with the 27th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft as a shortstop, and made 196 starts at that position in the Minor Leagues since being drafted.

The team experimented with Merrill in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League at the end of last season, and he has been getting primary work in centre field with the Padres in Spring Training this year. 

After trading away outfielders Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the New York Yankees in December, the Padres have not filled those spots externally, leaving some to speculate that Merrill will be the opening-day starter in centre field.

As's AJ Cassavell notes, Merrill would become just the third opening-day starter in centre field under the age of 21 in the past 50 years, joining the legendary Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones. 

The Padres kick off the MLB regular season with a mini two-game series in South Korea on March 20.