Jackson Merrill was a surprise selection by the Padres in the first round. (Photo: Paul W. Gillespie/Maryland Capital Gazette)

The San Diego Padres started their 2021 Draft selecting prep infielder Jackson Merrill, a fast-rising senior from the Washington DC area, with the 27th overall pick. In his senior year at Severna Park High School in Maryland, he hit .500 with 13 home runs but what got the left-handed swinging Merrill drafted was how much better some believe he can become.

Jackson Merrill was one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft. (Photo: Colin Murphy Severna Park Voice)

“He’s a projectable body, wide shoulders, length to his limbs,” said Padres Director of Scouting Mark Conner at Sunday night’s press conference. “For a lot of the ingredients we look for, we thought he stacked up well with the players that were on the scene all year.”

We spoke with Jackson by phone about his transformation into one of the top prospects in the country and starting his pro career.

According to a Washington Post article you grew five inches between your freshman and sophomore year but were able to stay at shortstop. How were you able to keep your athleticism?

Jackson Merrill: It’s funny, I think before the growth spurt I wasn’t as athletic as I became after I grew. It gave me longer legs, which gave me bigger strides and my arms also grew which really helped my leverage. So going into my freshman year I was about 5-foot-5 and at the start of sophomore year, I was 5-foot-10.

How tall are you now?

Jackson Merrill:  I am 6-foot-3, 190 to 193.

How much bigger do you want to get?

Jackson Merrill:  I can definitely get stronger and hopefully with my frame I can be around 210.  My parents aren’t that tall, so I’m not sure about the height.

After your sophomore year you committed to West Point, then as you started to get more notice it was the SEC and the University of Kentucky and now you are a first-round draft pick.

Are you kind of amazed at the speed of everything?

Jackson Merrill: Yeah, definitely and the draft stuff really didn’t start up until the last three months.  At first, there were a few scouts, then the number just started to grow.

I really did like West Point but when I started being able to compete against better competition it forced me to reevaluate what I wanted to do. That’s when I first really began to think that playing pro baseball could be something for me to do.

How did you get better during the Pandemic?

Jackson Merrill: When COVID first hit in March and cancelled my junior year it was hard to do much of anything. This past summer I played a lot in Georgia with 5 Star Carolina where I was playing shortstop and third base.

The Padres believe Merril can stay at shortstop. (Photo: Paul W. Gillespie/Maryland Capital Gazette)

You seem like the classic case of every kid in high school that was really good, but with the refrain, ‘if only he was a little bigger’.

Are you now the big kid with the small kid skills?

Jackson Merrill: [laughs] Yes, I am.

How much contact did you have with the Padres before the draft?

Jackson Merrill:  We went to the pre-draft workouts, but San Diego was the first to contact me. The area scout Danny Sader saw me at a few events before the season and was at a lot of my high school games.

They brought me in for some interviews and I tried to be as honest as I could be. On the field, I’m a pretty intense person, but off of the field, I tend to be really chill.

What have you learned about the organization since the draft?

Jackson Merrill:  The Padres did a very good job of explaining to me who they were and what they were looking for. So when I got picked I was really excited because I knew who they were and what they were about. 

I’m sure you are aware the Padres have three All-Star players at third, second base, someone named Fernando Tatis, Jr. at shortstop and one of the top prospects in baseball CJ Abrams in the infield.  

Any worries about where you are going to fit in?

Jackson Merrill:  It’s funny a lot of people have said that to me and right now I’m just really excited to play. If I’m on the left side of the infield that’s great, but in the end, I just want to be on the field helping the team win.

Many scouts liked Jackson Merrill’s left-handed swing. (Photo: KHG Sports Management)

One question about you being a right-handed throwing left-handed hitter was about your ability to pull the ball.  What do you think of that?

Jackson Merrill:  I go the other way because I was pitched outside for most of the year. I like to pull the ball when it’s an inside pitch.

How did you end up being a left-handed hitter?

Jackson Merrill: It’s just the way that I picked up the bat as a kid. Everyone thinks it’s something my dad had me do, but it was always just been the natural way for me to swing.

 

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

6 Comments

  1. Jackson, congratulations!! Just one question…. Wasn’t I the most influential and best coach you ever had (I know you will say your dad, so besides him), which was around 11-14 with the Graysox & Canes? You and James, Moylan, and Shane together – what a group!

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the response. He seems like a great kid. john

      Reply

  2. Can’t access…says its restricted for my membership level?

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    1. it shouldn’t, I’ll have David take a look. john

      Reply

  3. […] money and other savings in the first 10 rounds will be needed to sign second-rounder James Wood. We talked to Merrill before he signed his contract. He’ll be working at the complex in Peoria and should be active […]

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  4. […] pick was described in our post-draft interviews as someone who has a great feel for the game.  In our interview before he signed with San Diego, he very much came across as someone who wanted to get on the field as quickly as possible. … […]

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