Ethan Salas: 17 years old and ripping a walk-off at Double-A

Top-ranked Padres prospect (MLB No. 5) notches game-winning double in San Antonio debut

August 23rd, 2023

By virtue of merely suiting up for Double-A San Antonio on Tuesday night, Ethan Salas made history by becoming the first player to appear at the level at 17 years old since 2014. But Salas didn’t just put on his gear -- he ripped a walk-off double in the 10th inning, delivering an 8-7 Missions win at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium.

It’s been a whirlwind summer for the top international prospect, who opened eyes when he zoomed past the Rookie level and debuted professionally at Single-A Lake Elsinore. After just 48 games there, MLB's No. 5 overall prospect was promoted to High-A Fort Wayne, which served as a short nine-game stop on his way up to the Texas League.

Salas' first hit Double-A hit -- the aforementioned double -- came off 27-year-old Amarillo right-hander Mitchell Stumpo (D-backs). In a seesaw at-bat that Salas pushed to the seven-pitch mark, he got a center-cut heater that he walloped nearly to the warning track in right-center field, enabling him to lose his helmet after touching second base as he awaited his teammates, who streamed out of the dugout to celebrate his second career walk-off knock.

Being significantly younger than the competition isn’t new to Salas, who played for Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League this past season and was more than 12 years junior to the average player.

Salas debuted in the California League in late May at just 16 years old and immediately made his presence felt with two-hit outings in his first pair of contests. As the summer wore on, he added a list of pro firsts to his résumé: walk-off knock, four-hit outing and a multihomer performance. He slashed .267/.350/.487 with the Storm with 43.1 percent of his hits going for extra bases; his 121 wRC+ and .379 wOBA would have ranked him inside the Top 15 in the league if he had the requisite number of plate appearances.

When MLB Pipeline released its updated midseason rankings, no player eligible to have been ranked at the start of the year debuted higher on the list than Salas, who checked in at No. 5 overall. As far as such information can be tracked, no player this young has ever been so highly regarded by Pipeline’s rankings.

Salas, who is now San Diego’s top-ranked prospect, joins a talented Double-A lineup that also includes second-ranked Jackson Merrill (MLB No. 9). For an organization that unloaded significant prospect capital just over a year ago in order to acquire Juan Soto, the farm has quickly been restocked, with MLB Pipeline slotting the club ninth among all 30 teams for system outlook.

"He's a guy that our group feels can be challenged," Padres GM A.J. Preller said of Salas last week. "It's also about him playing with -- we have a group of players that were at Fort Wayne, and they're going to get an opportunity in Double-A to play in the playoffs down the stretch.

"Similar to some of the experiences he's had so far, where he played winter ball and then Spring Training, I think it's just more of a chance for him to see some higher-level pitchers and players and continue on his development path."