Ethan Salas, made his Minor League debut with the Lake Elsinore Storm, the San Diego Padres Single-A affiliate, on Tuesday. He batted second and served as the Storm’s designated hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Single-A affiliate, the Visalia Rawhide.
Salas recorded a hit in each of his first two at-bats and got his minor league career off to a rip-roaring start.
Not bad for a player who won’t turn 17 until Thursday.
Indeed, Salas was 16 years old at the time of his minor league debut with the Storm. That makes him the youngest player in full-season minor league baseball, a mantle that he could hold for the rest of the season — if not, longer.
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Here’s what you need to know about the newest and youngest international talent who is playing in the Padres organization.
Who is Ethan Salas?
Salas is ranked as the No. 86 prospect in baseball and the No. 3 prospect in the Padres system. The Venezuelan catcher, who was born in Kissimmee, Fla., made his minor league debut at age 16, just two days before his 17th birthday.
Salas will now take the mantle as the youngest player in minor league baseball and the first player born in 2006 to play at that level. He is also the first member of his international class to make an appearance in the minors, as most will play in the Dominican Summer League, the Arizona Complex League or both this year.
Before Salas, Nelson Rada — born August 24, 2005 — was the youngest player in the minors. Rada will turn 18 this summer and plays as an outfielder for the Angels’ Single-A affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers.
And Salas is one of three players since 2018 to see action in the minor leagues at age 17 or younger. The others are Rada and Padres outfielder Samuel Zavala, who debuted in with Lake Elsinore at age 17 in 2022.
Both Rada and Zavala had previously been integrated into play at complex-level play before making the jump to full-season ball. That made the jump a bit less difficult than the one that Salas, who skipped over the rookie level altogether, is facing.
As such, Salas’ advanced jump is more unusual and could come with some growing pains. It is perhaps most comparable to when Julio Urías debuted for the Dodgers Single-A affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons, at 16 in May 2013.
Urías now pitches at the major league level for the Dodgers. So, if Salas follows a growth pattern similar to his, then the catcher should be A-OK.
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Ethan Salas’ career timeline
Salas was officially added to San Diego’s Single-A affiliate roster, the Lake Elsinore Storm, on Tuesday.
He attended part of Padres spring training and had a Cactus League appearance on March 11. He caught four innings in that contest and grounded out to second in his one and only at-bat.
Salas’ progress was delayed a little after that due to right shoulder soreness. That said, he returned raring to go in the extended portion of spring training around May 14, according to the Padres. His clean bill of health allowed him to make the jump over the rookie-level Arizona Complex League into Single-A.
And so too did his overall talent.
“He’s kind of the total-package catcher,” Padres scouting director Chris Kemp said this past winter, according to MLB. “It’s just rare. This is my ninth year doing international scouting and, for us, this is the most interesting guy we’ve scouted.”
Ethan Salas contract
Four months ago, at the opening of the 2023 international window, the Venezuelan catcher inked a deal with the Padres franchise for $5.6 million. That made him the highest-paid international prospect of that signing period.
Youngest MLB players of all time
Salas might be able to reach the majors at a young age if he develops well. Even still, he won’t be the youngest player in MLB history. That honor belongs to Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Reds, who made his debut at 15 years old. And several other players saw action in their age-16 seasons.
Here is the full list of 15- and 16-year-olds to play in the majors, per Baseball Reference.
|1944||Joe Nuxhall||15||Cincinnati Reds|
|1872||Jacob Doyle||16||Washington Nationals|
|1876||Frank Pearce||16||Louisville Grays|
|1877||Leonidas Lee||16||St. Louis Brown Stockings|
|1883||Piggy Ward||16||Philadelphia Quakers|
|1892||Tom Hess||16||Baltimore Orioles|
|1897||Joe Stanley||16||Washington Senators|
|1909||Coonie Blank||16||St. Louis Cardinals|
|1943||Roger McKee||16||Philadelphia Phillies|
|1956||Jim Derrington||16||Chicago White Sox|
|1955||Alex George||16||Kansas City Athletics|
|1943||Carl Scheib||16||Philadelphia Athletics|