Power ranking Padres’ potential rookie superstars in 2024 season

Which Padres rookies will excel this season?
San Diego Padres pitcher Yuki Matsui throws during a Spring Training
San Diego Padres pitcher Yuki Matsui throws during a Spring Training / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Yuki Matsui, Padres LHP

Maybe this is wishful thinking, but the Padres are high on Matsui. The Japanese pitcher signed a five-year, $28 million contract with the Padres this offseason, and is seen as a possible replacement for Josh Hader at the backend of the San Diego bullpen.

The split-finger fastball has gained a good deal of notoriety this spring, and a lot of pitchers appear to be adding it to their arsenal. That's a pitch that the diminutive Matsui has already mastered. At just 5-foot-8, Matsui is unlikely to possess the type of strength to blow opposing batters away with the high heat. But owning a plus-splitter may allow Matsui to own hitters during his rookie season with the Padres.

1. Jackson Merrill, Padres OF

Merrill is the Padres' top prospect not named Ethan Salas, and San Diego gave the 20-year-old the opportunity to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. The problem for Merrill was that the opportunity wasn't going to come at his natural position.

A shortstop by trade, Merrill made a seamless transition to the outfield grass and has started spring games in both left and center field. While Marsee is the more polished defender, Merrill is athletic enough to field the position well enough to be part of San Diego's starting lineup.

Merrill has Rookie of the Year potential. There will be stiff competition from other players in the National League like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jung Hoo Lee, and Jackson Chourio, but Merrill is going to be in the Padres lineup almost every day. If his defense is just average, and his hit-over-power makeup translates to the big leagues, the Padres could have a star on their hands.

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