The Athletic's roster projection has Padres top prospect filling outfield vacancy

Padres fans would be psyched to see this!
San Diego Padres shortstop Jackson Merrill
San Diego Padres shortstop Jackson Merrill / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson Merrill Watch 2024 is officially underway. The San Diego Padres top prospect, who received a non-roster invite to participate in spring training, is attempting make a run at the Opening Day roster.

On Friday, new Padres manager Mike Shildt announced that Ha-Seong Kim will be the Friars Opening Day shortstop with Xander Bogaerts moving to second base. That would seem to indicate if Merrill, who's a shortstop by trade, is hoping to break camp with the big league club, he's going to have to do so as an outfielder.

Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription required), in fact, believes that Merrill will make the move to the outfield and land a spot on the active roster. Merrill was one of five outfielders to find their way onto Lin's Opening Day roster projection

The Athletic's roster projection has Padres top prospect, Jackson Merrill, filling outfield vacancy

Moving Merrill to the outfield may be seem a bit controversial, but if San Diego intends to keep the band together, it just might work. At the moment, the Padres have just three outfielders on the 40-man roster.

Fernando Tatis Jr. will undoubtedly be the Padres starting right fielder for the team's opener in the Seoul Series next month. Jose Azocar is the leading candidate, at the moment, to open the season in center field. And with the Friars bringing Jurckison Profar back to southern California, Shildt can at least boast that he has three outfielders instead of only two and stick him in left field.

Merrill spoke earlier this offseason about getting in some reps at second base, left field, and center field in addition to his natural position at shortstop. The Padres have fended off trade rumors all winter surrounding Ha-Seong Kim, and there's even potential for a contract extension as well.

With Bogaerts and Manny Machado under contract for the next decade, and a potential extension in the works for Kim, Merrill's best shot to get regular playing time will be in the outfield.

Pads fans will now be closely watching how the team allocates playing time to Merrill over the next few weeks. While Merrill has yet to play above Double-A, the possibility exists for the 20-year-old to skip over Triple-A and begin his rookie season when the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers clash on March 20 in South Korea. Don't be shocked if this roster prediction comes true.