Padres Prospect Watch: Ethan Salas finally heating up, Leo De Vries, Tirso Ornelas

Here is a quick look at how some of the Padres' top prospects are doing down in the minors.
2024 San Diego Padres Spring Training
2024 San Diego Padres Spring Training / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages
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The San Diego Padres farm system has gotten a lot of attention lately, but that is mainly due to the fact that the team's front office is poised to be busy at the trade deadline and fans are wondering who the team could lose. However, San Diego's farm system is more than just a list of potential future trade assets with many guys that could play into the Padres' future.

Fans have already seen the fruits that San Diego's player development can produce. Top rookie Jackson Merrill is looking like he is on his way to stardom and recent call-up Adam Mazur is showing promise as a rotation arm albeit with some bumps along the way. The flashy signings and trades get the most attention, but the Padres can produce homegrown talent as well.

Here is how some of the Padres' top prospects have been doing lately.

Ethan Salas is finally finding his way at the plate at High-A

The Padres' aggressive promotions of Ethan Salas in 2023 after being the top player in international free agency during the January 2023 period garnered a lot of attention. Many were wondering if San Diego was being too aggressive with him while others thought he could be the "next big thing" given his young age and quick ascension.

Through the first couple months of the 2024 season, it looked like the Padres may have gotten ahead of themselves with Salas. While Salas' maturity and adjustment to being a pro catcher was and is widely praised, he struggled mightily at the plate in High-A ... at least until recently. While his line in 2024 sits at .207/.313/.290 in 58 games, Salas has 10 hits in his last seven games. He may not be in the big leagues as soon as some thought, but he is beginning to showcase the immense raw talent he has at the plate again.

Leo De Vries' slow start brings Padres' aggressive assignment of him into question

The Padres once again went big in international free agency this year when they spent the bulk of their bonus pool to sign Leodalis De Vries, who many considered to be the best international player available. It is hard to argue with San Diego's reasoning as De Vries is a switch-hitting shortstop with the raw ability to hit for average and power (in addition to being a plus runner).

However, the Padres may have made a similar mistake to what they did with Salas, as they didn't send De Vries to the Dominican Summer League or even rookie ball and instead threw him right into Low-A as a trial by fire. So far, that decision hasn't worked out as well as anyone hoped and De Vries has just a .617 OPS in his first 35 games as a pro. However, this is your reminder that he is just 17 years old, and assuming he has the mental fortitude to battle through some adversity he will be just fine.

Padres prospect Tirso Ornelas is finally getting the attention he deserves

For a couple years now, Padres outfield prospect Tirso Ornelas hasn't gotten the love he deserves. Despite hitting at a high level in the upper levels of the minor leagues in 2022 and 2023, scouts and "experts" continued to ding Ornelas for his weird stance and swing, and remained convinced that eventually more advanced pitchers were going to eat him alive.

However, that isn't what has happened at all. After getting promoted to Triple-A last season, Ornelas has been at Triple-A all year long in 2024 and is even better than he was last year with a .292/.377/.488 line at the level. Ornelas doesn't bring much to the table defensively and isn't a great runner, but the dude can flat out hit, and folks are finally beginning to realize that just because he doesn't do things the accepted "best way" doesn't mean he is doomed to fail.

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