Some would say the San Diego Padres pitching staff will be one of the worst in MLB this year.
In fact, USA Today ranked the Padres hurlers dead last in the entire league for the upcoming season. To that, I say, rubbish. The reason being… Austin Hedges.
Whoever makes the club as a starter, whether it is Luis Perdomo, Clayton Richard, Jered Weaver, Jarred Cosart, Jhoulys Chacin, Christian Friedrich, Trevor Cahill, Paul Clemens, Cesar Vargas, or Tyrell Jenkins, they will feel safe knowing they have Austin Hedges as a backstop.
Austin Hedges is regarded by many as the best defensive catcher in MLB. Note he has less than one year of MLB service time. Hedges was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, primarily because of his defensive qualities. His tremendous defensive attributes include a 1.8 second pop-time, a .987 career fielding percentage, as well as a career fifty-one percent caught-stealing percentage. Those all would have been first in the league in 2016. Although I can talk about Hedges’ defensive metrics all day, this article is about how he can help the pitching staff.
First of all, the starting staff will take the mound knowing they have one of the best defensive catchers in MLB. That alone will let pitchers pitch more freely and also have confidence while on the mound. Knowing they have Hedges will give pitchers piece of mind.
Secondly, Hedges is known to be a great game-caller. He knows what pitch to throw in any given count and has shown that at a very young age. This ability will allow pitchers and Hedges to build trust this season. We all know trust is key between a pitcher and a catcher.
Thirdly, Hedges is a great leader on and off the baseball diamond. He will tell the defense where to position themselves, he will also visit the mound and boost the pitchers self-esteem. These actions will bring the club closer overall.
Look at players like Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Jason Varitek, Ivan Rodriguez, and Johnny Bench. These players, great defensive catchers, made their respective teams’ pitching staffs great. All five of these catchers have caught hall of fame or future hall of fame pitchers. Fact is, great defensive catchers make great pitching staffs. Austin Hedges will hopefully be no different from these greats some day.
We, as Padres fans, will soon see the reality that is the 2017 Padres. This club could surprise some people with the help of Austin Hedges. Experts say the Padres weakest part of the team is the pitching staff and that might be the case, but I believe Austin Hedges will propel this pitching staff and make it better than what most people think.
Padres fans, and the entire MLB community, will soon see how much Austin Hedges affects the Padres’ pitching staff.