Padres rookie's early-season performance is all but demanding a lineup change

Jackson Merrill has been as advertised.
San Diego Padres center fielder Jackson Merrill (3)
San Diego Padres center fielder Jackson Merrill (3) / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

When your team bludgeons the opponent 10-2, it's hard to have much to complain about. The San Diego Padres won their first series of the season after upending Kyle Hendricks and the Chicago Cubs in front of nearly 40,000 Pads fans at Petco Park on Wednesday afternoon.

But if there's one issue that manager Mike Shildt may need to address, it's the lineup. Fernando Tatis Jr. has been heating up, and Jurickson Profar has had a hot-start to his 2024 campaign. But the veteran trio of Manny Machado, Xander Boagaerts, and Ha-Seong Kim have struggled out of the chute. None of those three players have an OPS above .675 on the season.

But Jackson Merrill has been raking during his rookie campaign. The shortstop-turned-outfielder has proven, not only that he belongs, but that he deserves some more at-bats. How will Shildt handle the Padres lineup moving forward?

Padres' Jackson Merrill's early-season performance is all but demanding a lineup change

Merrill was 0-for-2 on Wednesday, but don't let that distract you from what he's done through his first two weeks in the big leagues. Merrill had a four-hit game earlier this week and is batting .286/.388/.405. No, the power hasn't shown up yet, but the Padres lineup is filled with plenty of big bats that will start launching moon shots at Petco Park soon enough.

But other than Profar, no one on the Friars roster has a higher on-base percentage than Merrill. Profar and Merrill lead the team in walks (7) and Merrill's also shown plenty of speed on the base paths. He has two stolen bases on the year.

Shildt may need to consider bumping Merrill up in the lineup in order to better use his skill set. With Bogaerts, Machado, and Kim all posting a on-base percentage below .300, the Padres are missing out on opportunities to get players on base ahead of the big bats like Tatis and Jake Cronenworth.

Baseball can humble the best of players sometimes, and it's typically viewed as bad form for a rookie like Merrill to supplant a veteran player like Bogaerts atop the lineup. But given how the season has unfolded and looking at the competition throughout the division, the Friars cannot afford to be overly patient if they're hopeful to compete for the postseason in 2024.

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