Mike Schildt’s cryptic comments all but confirm Jackson Merrill’s Opening Day roster spot

It sure sounds like the Padres have made their decision on whether or not to promote Jackson Merrill.
Feb 24, 2024; Peoria, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Jackson Merrill catches a fly ball
Feb 24, 2024; Peoria, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Jackson Merrill catches a fly ball / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of uncertainty with regards to the San Diego Padres Opening Day roster down at spring training. The Padres have a larger-than-usual number of roster spots that were very unsettled or vacant altogether when camp started, and it has taken a while to parse what decisions the team would end up making.

Well, it does seem like at least one decision has been made, and it is regarding top prospect Jackson Merrill's status for the Opening Day roster. Merrill came into spring training with a chance to make the big league roster in the outfield despite the fact that he is an infielder by trade. However, after a strong spring training and still no movement on adding an external option for the outfield, most agreed that it was Merrill's job to lose.

After manager Mike Shildt revealed that Merrill will be traveling to South Korea with the team for the opening series and said that "he's earned his way on the plane", that all but settled any debate on the subject.

Jackson Merrill is all but assured an Opening Day roster spot now

While Shildt's declaration falls just short of saying that Merrill is a lock to make the Opening Day roster, it is really, really close. The team would not travel him to Korea if they didn't have any intention of playing him. Shildt's verbiage may be accounting for the slight possibility that the team makes a move to sign someone, but all signs are that Merrill will be getting a shot from day one.

As to Shildt's reasoning, he isn't wrong. Merrill came into camp with a lot of hype surrounding his bat and he has still found a way to exceed those lofty expectations this spring. In 12 games down at spring training, Merrill has slashed .343/.395/.600 with five extra-base hits including a couple homers. In terms of his performance against the rest of the competition in the outfield, Merrill has been as good or better than all of them -- and, in the case of Graham Pauley, the Padres may have other plans for him.

When the dust settles, it looks like the Padres will have quite the interesting roster by Opening Day, filled with high upside bats looking to make a name for themselves. As to whether that will turn into wins on the field, fans will just have to wait and see.

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