Don’t look now San Diego Padres fans, but defensive specialist rookie catcher Austin Hedges is starting to swing the bat with some authority. The much touted catcher from Gardena California, is currently hitting .370 in 15 games for Triple-A El Paso. Hedges has also hit two home runs, five doubles, and driven in 13 runs in 46 total at bats. A .370/.453/.609 batting line so far this young season is very promising.
Austin Hedges defense could already have the talented young catcher in the major leagues, but his bat had been a work in progress. With over 1,100 career minor league at bats and a .256/.317/.391 batting line, the Padres were obviously a little troubled. Hedges has never really had a decent minor league season at any level. His best year was in 2012 for Fort Wayne, where Hedges hit .279 with 10 homers and 56 runs batted in. Decent numbers for a catcher two years out of high school. He seemed destined for stardom.
Since 2012 Hedges numbers have declined. Last season in Double-A ball San Antonio, Hedges had a .225/.268/.321 batting line. That is absolutely horrendous and it is no wonder that certain teams soured on him as a top prospect. Hedges was constantly rumored in a deal to the Philadelphia Phillies since they have let in be known that they are in search of a young catcher for the future. Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley have all been linked to the Padres in a potential deal, but nothing has been agreed upon.
Looking at Austin Hedges, he has everything you want in a catcher of the future. That is why I was surprised the Padres went after Derek Norris in the off-season. I understand after losing Rene Rivera to the Tampa Bay Rays and Yasmani Grandal to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team needed a catcher that was major league ready, however Hedges seemed close in my eyes. Derek Norris is a young team controlled catcher so where does that leave Austin Hedges?
Derek Norris is the real deal. His value seems to rise every time I set eyes on him playing the game. Norris brings an old school attitude to the team, and has earned much respect among his peers. With that being said, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. At the age of 26 Norris is in the prime of his career. He is under team control until the 2019 season. Norris is an inexpensive talent at a pivotal position. He is boosting his value to a level where he cannot be replaced. Norris is a valuable piece to the Padres potential playoff run for seasons to come.
Austin Hedges is very close to being ready and in my opinion is the Padres brightest prospect. With no disrespect to Hunter Renfroe, who in my opinion, is right behind Hedges in terms of value. Hedges just brings defensive skill that is off the charts. He has Yadier Molina type skill while behind the plate. That in itself will earn him a long major league career as a backup catcher. If Hedges can hit just a little, even just be average, he will have immense value. There is no reason why he can’t be a decent hitting catcher. His swing is short but has a few holes, nothing that cannot be adjusted. At the age of 22, Hedges has a bright future in major league baseball.
Austin Hedges is hitting now with numbers that will turn your head. Hitting in El Paso will boost a players numbers as the Texas League is known as a hitters league. However, the positive signs Hedges is showing is great in terms of his trade value. He will most likely be dealt soon by A.J. Preller. With Norris solidified as the catcher of the future, Hedges will have to find work elsewhere. The return for Hedges should be plentiful though, A.J. Preller wouldn’t accept less.