Top prospect Salas cracks first homer at High-A

May 22nd, 2024

Since signing for $5.6 million out of Venezuela as the prize of the 2023 international signing period, the Padres have had no problem challenging him with aggressive assignments. It's been a challenge at times this year for the game’s No. 6 overall prospect in High-A Fort Wayne, where the 17-year-old backstop is more than four years younger than the average player.

San Diego believes Salas is talented enough to meet those challenges and overcome them. What's most important is how he learns and develops because long-term, sky-high superstar potential is plain to see.

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The latest example came Tuesday when Salas cracked his first homer at the level in the TinCaps’ 12-1 rout of Lansing at Parkview Field.

Cranking a two-run long ball inside the right-field foul pole off right-hander Jake Garland (Blue Jays) in the first inning, the Padres' top prospect tattooed what became his first roundtripper since he parked nine for Single-A Lake Elsinore in 2023, his debut season. He also added a defensive highlight, fielding a short tapper in front of the plate for an out in the seventh.

"It was a frozen rope," Fort Wayne manager Mike Daly said of the homer. "I think it was a good job from a pitch selection standpoint. He was on his pitch and didn't miss it."

Salas finished his first campaign at Double-A San Antonio as a stretch run reinforcement for the Missions’ playoff push after spending most of the year at Lake Elsinore as a 16-year-old. He doesn’t turn 18 until June 1, when he’ll still be one of the youngest players at High-A – and any other level he reaches this season.

That just speaks to what the Padres see in Salas, who was widely considered the top amateur prospect of the ‘23 international signing period before San Diego basically spent its entire bonus pool to sign him.

A left-handed-hitting catcher with an above-average hit tool and plus-plus defensive ability, Salas proved he was more than ready for the challenge of skipping Rookie ball and beginning his pro career at Single-A. His smooth swing and balanced offensive approach translated pretty much seamlessly. He walked a healthy amount and hit for power – rare in a hitter so young, especially a catcher – while producing near-even right-left splits as well as a .350 OBP and .837 OPS over his first 220 pro games.

Salas got off to a slower start offensively this year at Fort Wayne, but has been heating up of late with hits in three consecutive games before the homer.

"That home run had been brewing," Daly said. "Players come into the season, and they have expectations. Ethan is no different than anybody else. If you look at his expected numbers, early on, they were very good. He ran into some tough luck. But that's the beauty of baseball, you get credited for coming to the ballpark every day and doing the work. He's done that. And he's been an outstanding teammate. He's been working extremely hard. And it's nice to see him get rewarded here over the past couple of games, especially tonight with the homer."