Merrill, 20, on center stage as Padres set Seoul Series roster

March 20th, 2024

SEOUL, South Korea -- The Padres’ roster reveal on Wednesday finally solidified what seemed an inevitability for some time:

The era is here.

The Padres’ No. 2 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings -- and the sport’s No. 12 overall prospect -- has formally made the team, and there’s no ambiguity as to where he stands. The career-long shortstop officially is listed as an outfielder ahead of his expected MLB debut in center field in the Padres’ season-opening matchup against the Dodgers at 3:05 a.m. PT in the Seoul Series.

Merrill, who will turn 21 on April 19, is set to become the fourth Opening Day center fielder to start at age 20 or younger in the divisional era (since 1969), joining Don Hahn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones.

“I know my family will be watching back home, so I'm not really too worried about that,” Merrill said earlier in the week about debuting half a world away from home. “My girlfriend's out here, so at least she'll be here.”

The Seoul Series roster announcement brought tough news for Korean right-hander Woo-Suk Go, who was optioned to Triple-A El Paso and won’t be active for these games in his home country following a tough spring. Go allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings (a 12.46 ERA) and allowed a two-run homer in the Monday exhibition against the KBO’s LG Twins, his former team.

There still doesn’t appear to be any immediate clarity to the Padres’ other outstanding roster battles, which they’ll still have time to resolve before domestic Opening Day on March 28.

All three of the candidates for the third-base gig during Manny Machado’s continued limitation to DH duties -- Graham Pauley, Eguy Rosario and Tyler Wade -- are on the active roster. Machado appeared limited to fielding but not throwing during drills at the hot corner earlier in the week.

There’s also time yet for the Padres to make a decision regarding the fifth spot in the starting rotation, with Dylan Cease and Matt Waldron, for example, almost certainly being left off the active roster here because they both pitched bulk innings in San Diego’s most recent exhibition game against LG and wouldn’t be on schedule to factor into either of these games against the Dodgers.

The Padres’ Seoul Series roster:

Catchers (2): Luis Campusano, Kyle Higashioka

Infielders (7): Xander Bogaerts, Jake Cronenworth, Ha-Seong Kim, Manny Machado, Graham Pauley, Eguy Rosario, Tyler Wade

Outfielders (4): José Azocar, Jackson Merrill, Jurickson Profar, Fernando Tatis Jr.

Starting pitchers (5): Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Jhony Brito, Michael King, Randy Vásquez

Relief pitchers (8): Enyel De Los Santos, Jeremiah Estrada, Stephen Kolek, Robert Suarez, Tom Cosgrove, Yuki Matsui, Adrian Morejon, Wandy Peralta

Seoul Series extras (3, not on active roster): Pedro Avila, Dylan Cease, Matt Waldron