The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 13, 2021 1:30 am

Padres take high school shortstop in first round of MLB Draft

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The Padres used their first-round pick in the 2021 draft on high school shortstop Jackson Merrill, 18, out of Severna Park, Maryland. If recent history holds (and he signs with the Padres instead of playing college baseball at Kentucky, where he's committed), Merrill will be in Fort Wayne before long.

In 2017 and 2018, the Padres' first-round picks were a pair of left-handed pitchers in MacKenzie Gore and Ryan Weathers. Both of them started their first full pro season (2018 for Gore and 2019 for Weathers) at Low-A Fort Wayne and Weathers had reached the level by the end of the 2018 campaign. In 2019, CJ Abrams got to Fort Wayne after just 32 games in rookie ball and would have played a role for the TinCaps down the stretch had he not gotten hurt in his second game in the Summit City. 

San Diego's 2020 first-round selection, high school outfielder Robert Hassell III, started this season at Low-A Lake Elsinore and could well be in Fort Wayne sometime in the near future as he is getting on base at a .371 clip with 20 steals in Low-A.

Merrill will probably start at the team's complex in Arizona or possibly in Low-A, but if he proves himself he could be in Fort Wayne soon (again, assuming he signs). Here is what had to say about the No. 27 overall pick in the draft:

"A 6-foot-3, left-handed-hitting infielder, Merrill has some intriguing tools that had scouts pouring into Maryland late in this extended draft season. He has a good feel to hit with decent bat speed, showing the ability to use the whole field with some solid raw power he could grow into. He can have more of an inside-out swing at times and will have to learn how to turn on pitches to his pull side more to get to his power more consistently.

"Scouts like the way Merrill moves as a shortstop, with good actions and hands, with enough arm to give him the chance to at least start out at the premium position. The only question is his run tool, which could mean an eventual move to third or second, with confidence the University of Kentucky recruit can stay on the dirt long-term."

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