In anticipation of the release of MLB.com’s new top 100 prospect list, they are ranking the top ten prospects at each position. The other day Jim Callis named his top ten catching prospects as a part of the series. A name that all San Diego Padres fans have become familiar with in recent years appeared on that list. That would be Austin Hedges, who found himself in the #4 spot behind Blake Swihart, Jorge Alfaro and Kyle Schwarber. Here’s what Callis had to say about the Padres catcher.
"“The best defensive catcher to come out of high school in recent years, he’s now the best defensive catcher in the Minors. Hedges is extremely advanced as a receiver and game-caller, and his plus arm plays up because of his quick release and accuracy. While he struggled at the plate in Double-A last year, he makes regular contact and his defense alone will send him to the big leagues.”"
It’s not the most glowing scouting report ever written about Hedges, but it should be enough to at least stir up some excitement in fans. Being the best at anything in the entirety of the minors is something special, and especially when it’s defense at one of, if not the, most important defensive position in baseball.
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As for his offense, Callis’ note about Hedges contact is an important one. Another defense-first catcher who made above average contact, but couldn’t turn that contact into productive hits was Yadier Molina. Molina has posted an above-average contact percentage every single season as well as contact percentages both inside and outside of the zone above league average, aside from his first full season in 2005. Despite his above-average contact rate he didn’t post a wRC+ or OPS+ at or above 100 until his fifth full season in 2009. Since then, he’s only had one in each category. Maybe Hedges will take a page out of Molina’s book and learn to be maybe even half the hitter he is.
Overall, being ranked this high among catching prospects is still a great honor for Hedges. Even if his bat never fully comes around, the praise for his work on the defensive end has been what has gotten him noticed and on this list, so it has to be outstanding and will make him worth a spot on a big league roster sometime in the not too distant future.
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