Padres Prioritize 'Special' Talent Ethan Salas
Ethan Salas’ older brother signed with the Marlins for $2.8 million in 2019. Their father played in the Braves’ system, an uncle played in the Blue Jays’ system and a grandfather played in the Astros’ and Royals’ systems.
As well known as the Salas family is in Venezuela, a good first impression—like homering off a 93 mph fastball as a 14-year-old in his first at-bat in front of Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller—never hurt anyone.
“I brought A.J. in to see (Salas) and I was like, ‘This kid could be special,' " Padres international scouting director Chris Kemp said. “His first AB was a pull-side homer versus an older release guy. We just looked at each other.
" 'Told you.' "
The farm system largely emptied by Preller’s frenetic dealing in recent years, the Padres took a gigantic swing at improving it as the 2023 international window opened on Jan. 15. San Diego signed the 16-year-old Salas to the richest deal for an international prospect since signing Cubans Adrian Morejon for $11 million and Jorge Oña for $7 million in July 2016.
At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Salas possesses arguably the smoothest, purest lefthanded swing in this international signing class, as well as an advanced eye at the plate and the ability to grow into more power.
He’s also athletic behind the plate with a strong throwing arm. He blocks and receives well. And as a bilingual backstop, he has the kind of intangibles that can lead a pitching staff.
Padres evaluators already group Salas alongside the system's top prospects: shortstop Jackson Merrill, catcher Luis Campusano and righthander Dylan Lesko.
“It’s really exciting,” Kemp said. “You just want to keep building something special here, and Ethan is part of that. When you’re building a special program, you need guys like Ethan.
"It’s a fun day for our staff and scouts knowing we get to work with a kid like that.”
— The signing of Ethan Salas for almost all of the Padres’ $5.825 million bonus pool is especially noteworthy because it comes on the heels of the club signing Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal. Because Bogaerts turned down a qualifying offer from the Red Sox, he will cost the Padres their second- and fifth-round picks in the 2023 draft and $1 million from their 2024 international bonus pool.
It was taken into consideration as the Padres’ honed in on adding Salas.
Kemp and his international scouting staff were made aware of the Padres’ push to sign a top free agent and what it would cost him as the lead of both the international and domestic scouting staffs. Not a problem, he said.
“You still think you can play at the top," Kemp said. "You can still go get a top-flight guy and still trust our staff to find the late-blooming guy.”