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Ethan Salas is Padres’ newest international prospect: ‘He’s just different’

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San Diego – Ten weeks before signing with parents, Ethan Salas made his professional baseball debut as one of the few 16-year-olds to play in the Venezuelan Winter League. On November 4, the teen had two shutouts, walked two and caught eight innings with Águilas del Zulia against Tiburones de la Guaira. It wasn’t until relatively late in the game that he realized that he and Águilas’ pitching staff had held the opposition unbeaten until the fifth inning.

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“Oh, man, my heart was racing,” Salas said. “We won the game, and we had a lot of fun.”

Salas, a burly teen who split most of his youth between Florida, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, had more significant accomplishments this week. Sunday in the Dominican Republic, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2023 International class officially made a long-anticipated deal with the Padres. About 48 hours later, during his first trip to San Diego, Salas met the local media inside the local clubhouse at Petco Park, showing poise beyond his years.

That maturity, combined with what Vice President of Amateur and International Scouting Chris Kemp described as a rare combination of talent and skill, convinced the Padres to part with a more than $5.6 million signing bonus, the largest in history. Major League BaseballThe hard international era.

“I think you see that today,” Kemp said Tuesday, minutes after Salas calmly answered reporters’ questions. “He’s wired different. Just different. Then I like the swing. He’s a five-tool catcher, with that kind of mentality.”

As the Padres have increasingly turned their resources to an expensive major-league product, mortgaging bits of the future along the way, the latest big-ticket international signing is cause for unkind excitement. Salas, a left-handed 6-foot-2, 185-pound batsman, was considered by some evaluators as the best prospect to attract the international market in years. Now a member of a San Diego farm system depleted by too many trades, Salas joins Jackson Merrill and Dylan Lesko among the organization’s most sought after. Whichever organization he ultimately plays for, there is hope that he can progress more quickly than the majority of his peers.

His winter football stint, during which he was involved with a club with the likes of Salvador Pérez and Inder Insart, may be an early clue. Salas has grown up in the same house with many role models with relevant experience.

Salas’ older brother, Jose Salas Jr., is a 19-year-old player and one of the best players for the Miami Marlins. Their father, Jose Sr., spent several years fishing in the Atlanta Braves organisation. Jose Sr.’s father played in Houston Astros And Kansas City Royals systems. His brother, Jose Jr. and uncle, Ethan, played in the Toronto Blue Jays the system.

“Being in a club since I was little, (I’ve learned) how baseball goes, being more progressive,” said Ethan Salas. “Just learn what baseball life is like because it’s hard. And it’s a long process, it’s not easy.”

Besides belonging to a baseball family, Salas’ characters draw a distinct advantage as he embarks on his career. Venezuelan by heritage, he is fluent in both English and Spanish.

“Being bilingual in baseball is very important,” said Salas, who was born in Kissimmee, Florida. “You have to be able to make sure all the players can connect in a club environment and we can all be a family. It’s very important.”

Kemp said Tuesday he felt the Padres came close to signing Jose Salas Jr. in 2019, before Salas received a $2.8 million bonus from Marlins. Kemp said that while he was exploring the possibility in Venezuela, he saw Ethan and Salas’ youngest brother, Andrew. The scouting director quickly became enamored with Ethan Salas’s – arguably the purest in the class of 2023 – athletic swing, arm strength and advanced action behind the plate.

“It’s my ninth year (as a Scouting Director), my 13th year as a Scout,” said Kemp. “I’ve never seen a catcher like that mentality, body, bloodlines, swing. I played with Brian McCann at such a young age back in the day, and that’s the closest thing I can compare it to personally.”

Salas, who some scouts mention Joe Mauer, is a “good bet” to debut next summer in the Arizona Complex League, Kemp said, and potentially bypass the Dominican Summer League—the typical springboard for the teenager’s international prospects.

“But I don’t want to put an end to this,” Kemp added. “Let’s see where his game goes and he’ll tell us.”

A similar willingness to test his precocious talent led Salas to feature in winter football in Venezuela, where some players were nearly twice his age. (In addition to making his debut on November 4, Salas participated in another rain-soaked game.) Jose Salas Sr. said the goal of the experience was to “accelerate” his son’s education as a forward.

On Tuesday, Salas Sr., who has spent his career after playing supervising and coaching at baseball academies in Florida and Latin America, recalled two past developmental stories that helped prepare the family for another massive signing. In 2017, Daniel Flores, another highly regarded Venezuelan, signed with red socks For $3.1 million. After only four months, Flores died Due to complications during cancer treatment. That tragedy deeply affected the Salas family; Salas Sr. was Flores’ coach and adoptive father.

Two years later, they celebrated when Jose Salas Jr. followed Flores into professional ball. Since then, Salas has progressed as hoped, reaching the top level last season and subsequently playing in Arizona League fall.

Now, Ethan Salas is furthering the family legacy. He and his parents and siblings took a stroll through Petco Park on Tuesday, scouting the building where Salas could one day compete in the best league in the world. Developing young catchers tends to be particularly challenging — it could take several years before Salas gets a chance in the major leagues, assuming he avoids being derailed in the minor leagues — but Salas’ unusual maturity offers at least one reason to believe in his future promise. .

“I’m proud of who it was as a kid,” said Jose Salas Sr.

“I hope to have a long career here in San Diego,” said Ethan Salas. “Spend a lot of years here, win a couple of championships – that would be perfect.”

(Top photo of Ethan Salas signing his contract with the Padres of the San Diego Padres)

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