At what point will Ethan Salas debut with Padres?

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Credit: MiLB

Undoubtedly, the San Diego Padres have an extraordinary talent in catcher Ethan Salas.

Selected this past summer during the international signing period, Salas comes with a considerable upside.

Most pundits agree his bat will certainly play at the major league level as his left-handed stroke is short and to the ball. Ethan Salas does not come into professional ball as a one-trick pony either, as the native of Kissimmee, Florida, is regarded as a plus defender with great mechanics.

Salas doubled and singled off the wall in his first two at-bats in the California League. He also worked an 0-2 walk against a tough southpaw showcasing unbelievable plate discipline for a 16-year-old. The kid is special and will climb all the top prospect lists in the coming year. Ethan Salas is a top prospect in all of baseball. That is a fact.

Being that Salas is a catcher, his arrival at the major leagues should be delayed compared to an outfielder or infielder.

Typically, the nuances of catching take time defensively, and most teams require at least two or three full seasons at the minor league level before promotion to the majors.

Lake Elsinore Storm

The probable route for Salas is to spend the entire 2023 season at the Single-A level. More than likely, he will stay close to home in Lake Elsinore, but if he continues to excel, there is a chance the phenom is sent to the Midwest League to play for the TinCaps. It would honestly take a lot for that to happen. But you never know.

The Padres have been aggressive with their prospects in the past. Fernando Tatis Jr. did not play in El Paso as he climbed the affiliate ladder. He was promoted directly from San Antonio to begin the 2019 season and never looked back. Salas has that type of pedigree and is a special talent.

To expect the same aggression the Padres showed with Tatis seems unlikely. The Padres may be a little more patient with his development and let the left-haded hitter grow in the minors. So far, Salas owns a .869 OPS in his first 145 at-bats in the California League. The catcher has also yet to commit an error behind the dish in 143 innings with the Storm.

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For the 2024 season, Salas will likely begin at the High Single-A level or possibly at the Double-A level (if he has an amazing spring). From there, he would be close to a major league promotion. But it is difficult to see the Padres promote a catcher who is still a teenager.

Earning his big league debut as a catcher on August 13, 1955, 17-year-old Jim Pagliaroni is the youngest backstop to see major league action in baseball’s modern era. The right-handed hitter earned one plate appearance and recorded a sac fly. He only got one at-bat that year at the major league level. Pagliaroni wouldn’t see the big leagues again until 1960, when he stuck as a big league catcher for the next ten seasons.

In 1991, a young catcher named Ivan Rodriguez debuted with the Texas Rangers. He was 19 years and 205 days old.

So when will Salas make his debut with the Padres?

The answer is sooner than you think. Don’t expect Salas to threaten Gary Sanchez or Luis Campusano for playing time this season, but he is knocking on the door. The bat is legit, and though it may take time to polish off the defensive skills, Ethan Salas should debut in the next few seasons with the Padres. A massive spring in Peoria against major league-caliber pitching may be the test to see where he is with his bat. One thing is for sure; the Padres have arguably the best young catcher in the game. A.J. Preller, Chris Kemp, and the Padres staff scored once again.

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