When the San Diego Padres recalled Austin Hedges from AAA El Paso, I was immediately concerned. The 22-year old had started off the season well with the Chihuahuas, with a .324 batting average in 71 at bats. Hedges is considered one of the Padres most prized prospects, but his knack has always been his hitting or lack there of. I just wondered if Hedges sitting on the Padres bench was the best thing for his development.
Since being recalled on May 3rd, Hedges has started four games and stepped to the plate only 15 times. Should a 22-year old top prospect be riding the pine for almost three weeks? The Padres had Wil Nieves in camp and with the team, but he was dismissed after a horrible defensive start. I just question if Hedges talent is being wasted on the Padres bench. He could be getting everyday at bats in El Paso, all be it at a lesser level, but he needs at bats.
Derek Norris is an absolute stud at the catcher position. He should be considered for the National League All Star game. With Norris on the roster and still relatively young at the age of 26, where does that leave Hedges? Some have speculated moving Norris to first base or third base, but that is unlikely. Norris is an excellent receiver and team leader, to expect him to move to the infield is ridiculous. His value lies as a catcher and that is where Derek Norris will play in the big leagues. This is not a slow pitch softball team, players cannot just switch positions at will.
Austin Hedges has already shown the strong-arm and terrific catching skills that have most teams aware of him. He at the very least could have an extensive major league career as a defensive minded catcher. If Hedges can swing a half way decent bat, he will be a valuable player. If he can put it all together offensively, he will be a perennial all-star receiver. He has that kind of talent.
For the young stud to get 15 at bats, in almost three weeks, is not going to do anything to cultivate this young talent. How can he improve on his offensive abilities when he is sitting on the bench? I know gaining experience at the major league level is important, but I question if he is really gaining much. Game play is needed for him to develop.
The Padres could most likely find a catcher somewhere to fill in for Norris when he can’t start. Tim Federowicz should be back with the team in July sometime. His arrival will surely lead to Hedges being sent back down to the minor leagues. So why not find a decent defensive minded catcher to backup Norris in the mean time?
Will the Padres attempt to trade the young catcher in order to gain a shortstop? I think that could be a possible scenario. If the Padres were to find a shortstop with the potential of Hedges, that could be a great deal for both perspective teams. We will just have to wait and see what Rock Star GM A.J. Preller has up his sleeve.
Until then Hedges will continue to get sporadic play behind the plate. I hope he soaks up all the knowledge that he can get at this level.If he can take what he has learned at the Major League level and interpret it into his game, he could take his game to the next level. I am curious what everyone else thinks. Should Hedges be in AAA or is he perfectly fine being the backup to Derek Norris? Leave some comments with your feelings.