Merrill finds way home in two very different ways

August 18th, 2023

With each passing day, is proving to be one of the most dynamic players in the Minors.

MLB Pipeline's No. 9 overall prospect left the yard and also swiped home for Double-A San Antonio, which fell to Midland, 9-4, on Thursday night at Nelson Wolff Stadium.

The performance was another feather in the cap in a sensational first full-season campaign for Merrill, who earned a promotion to the Texas League less than three months after his 20th birthday.

Entrenched in the two-hole for the Missions, the No. 2 Padres prospect manufactured the club's first run of the game using his instincts and his legs. Plunked on an 0-2 pitch in the bottom of the first inning, Merrill made his way to third base with two outs. Dancing down the line, he raced for the plate when RockHounds hurler Brady Basso attempted a pickoff at second base.

Merrill beat the throw home easily, netting his fifth stolen base in six attempts for San Antonio and his 15th overall. The lefty-swinging shortstop got to switch to a much more leisurely pace in his next trip around the bases. Batting in the ninth with a man on, Merrill connected on his 13th homer of the season, his third since moving up to Double-A and first since Aug. 1.

It was the type of game the Padres envisioned when they selected Merrill with the 27th pick in the 2021 Draft out of Severna Park High School in Maryland, where he tied a school record his senior year with 13 homers while batting .500 with 39 RBIs.

A solid fielder who figures to remain at short, Merrill's calling card is a smooth lefty swing and strong bat-to-ball skills that enable him to cover all fields. The power, which was expected after he bulked up and matured as a pro player, has seemingly arrived.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has nearly doubled his home run output from 2022, when he went yard six times during an injury-interrupted campaign spent mostly with Single-A Lake Elsinore in the California League. But Merrill finished last year strong, hitting .313 with an .876 OPS, four homers and 26 RBIs in his final 30 games. He carried that into the Arizona Fall League and hit the ground running in 2023.

Despite playing against competition more than two years his senior, the Maryland native and 2021 first-round pick has raised his game at a level most feel is the most difficult jump for Minor Leaguers.

After batting .280 with a .762 OPS in 68 games with High-A Fort Wayne, Merrill increased his production since the promotion, slashing .313/.367/.496 with 13 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs and 17 runs with San Antonio. He has hit safely in 23 of 28 games.