The San Diego Padres have promoted 17-year-old catching prospect Ethan Salas to their High-A affiliate in Fort Wayne, the Tin Caps announced Tuesday. He had previously been stationed with San Diego's Single-A affiliate in Lake Elsinore, where he batted .267/.350/.487 with nine home runs and five stolen bases (on seven attempts) in 48 games.
Salas, who celebrated his 17th birthday on June 1, will become the youngest player to appear at the level this season. According to FanGraphs' data, only one other player to record as much as a single High-A at-bat this year was in their age-18 season or younger: Baltimore Orioles catching prospect Samuel Basallo, who will turn 19 come Aug. 13.
He's in the starting lineup Wednesday, batting second and catching against the Lansing Lugnuts.
Salas, whose brother Jose is a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, originally signed with the Padres in January for $5.6 million. The Padres have since treated him in an aggressive manner, even playing him during big-league spring training games as a 16-year-old.
"Part of the way we've done it with the Padres," assistant farm director Mike Daly told Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune, "is we want to push the gifted."
While young catchers as a whole have a sky-high attrition rate, it's only fair to acknowledge that Salas looks like a star in the making. Scouts rave about his preternaturally polished defensive skills. He's also considered a potential above-average hitter from the left side. It certainly bodes well for those projections that he's thus far held his own against significantly older competition.
Salas seems likely to rank as the No. 2 prospect in the Padres system when CBS Sports conducts its analysis of each team's farm system this winter. San Diego shortstop Jackson Merrill, No. 14 in our midseason update, is expected to go No. 1.