Another Victorino? Phils tab prep shortstop from Hawaii

Devin Saltiban, a hitter with Major League ties, selected 98th overall on Day 2 of MLB Draft

July 10th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- Shane Victorino’s Hawaiian roots are strong. He still keeps tabs on everything happening back home. He still wants to know what is happening in the baseball world.

“I always ask, 'What names should I know?'” Victorino said on Monday.

It was in one of those conversations that Victorino, who grew up on Maui, first heard about Devin Saltiban, who lives on the Big Island. The Phillies selected Saltiban on Monday in the third round (No. 98 overall) of the 2023 MLB Draft.

Saltiban, 18, can hit, proving himself not only in Hawaii, but in tournaments in California and in the MLB Draft League and MLB Combine in June. It was in those places that he proved he can make hard contact against high velocity.

Saltiban worked hard to get that point. He spent years working with hitting coach Kaha Wong, who is the father of big leaguers Kolten and Kean Wong.

“A Shane Victorino, straight out,” Kaha Wong said, when asked how he would describe Saltiban to somebody who has never seen him play. “Fast, quick, good arm, he can track the ball in the outfield. He hits the ball hard. He can turn a single into a double with his speed. He’s smart on the bases.”

Wong said the Phillies had been following Saltiban for the past couple years, although he never had any inkling that they would select him in the Draft.

“His character, his makeup,” Wong said, explaining why he believes the Phils will be happy to have him. “Just how he presents himself. He’s easy to coach. That’s something people don’t look at, and I do. He works hard. He comes to the cage every day. I told him, ‘I’m not the best hitting coach, but I have two boys that went to the big leagues, so maybe I can help you with this and that.’

“He had no problem with just listening. Going through the process is easy with a guy like that. Some young kids don’t want to do that. Devin worked hard. Not only on the field, but in the classroom.”

Saltiban attended Hilo High School. He is committed to play college baseball at the University of Hawaii, but he is expected to sign with the Phillies. He is the latest Hawaiian high school position player to be selected in the first five rounds, joining Kala’l Rosario (2020, Twins’ No. 27 prospect), Shane Sasaki (2019, Rays) and Micah Bello (2018, Brewers).

“We just try to stay within ourselves,” Wong said. “Just try to get a little better, a little quicker. That’s all we can do. The process has been working. Today is a good reason why we’re doing this -- getting a guy off the Island. There is no magic potion or anything. It’s straight-up hard work, waking up every day and doing what we have to do.

“We try to see what we can afford and the players can afford, and most of the time it’s in California. We do as many showcases as we can afford. And with the relationships I have with a lot of scouts, when I call and say, ‘You should look at this boy,’ they come.”

Wong said he spoke with Saltiban about six months ago about his commitment to the University of Hawaii. He said Saltiban should concentrate on that, but still work on becoming a better player.

“Everybody at Hilo, we’ve got to save and figure out what we can do to get exposure,” Wong said. “It just so happened all the scouts came, and he got exposed a lot. Whenever they come, I’ll set up a workout on a field or a workout in my cage.

“When they came to watch Kala’l a couple years ago, I tried to put prospects in there that maybe have a chance in the future to get drafted. So when Kala’l was hitting, Devin was hitting.”

And the Phillies noticed.