The San Diego Padres Austin Hedges already has the defensive ability to play in the major leagues at his young age. A catcher with above average defensive skills at the age of 22 is a rare thing. His hitting, is something that is holding him back from an everyday major league roll however.
The baseball world seems to be split down the middle on weather or not Hedges will ever develop an adequate batting average or on base percentage.
His numbers last year in which he hit .225 in Double-A San Antonio, are horrible. In fact his overall numbers of .251/.311/.382 in four minor league seasons show the bat just isn’t there. Well, at least it hasn’t been there yet. The Padres are probably internally wondering what is going on.
Will Hedges develop the batting stance and plate discipline necessary to catch in the major leagues. That is really yet to be seen, but at the age of 22 there is no way you can give up on him.
Corey Brock of MLB.com interviewed Hedges and asked him if he was aware of the prospect lists and the fact his name has slipped a bit. The young catcher had this to say:
"“I’m aware of almost all those lists. But the second I start thinking about negative thoughts…that won’t get me any better today. I realize I’m at point in my career where there’s starting to be some negative things so I’m starting to take it in the same way as if they were positive.”"
A great way to look at it, as this game will beat you down before you even step foot on the diamond. A lot of mental pressures are put on a major league catcher. The game is sitting there right in front of them. No other position, do you control the game and have the whole field right in front of you.
That is exactly why catchers have been, and always will be the best managers in the game. They have to learn the nuances of each pitcher on the team and at the same time provide an offensive force to the lineup. Hedges has mastered the defensive part of the game, which in my opinion is extremely underrated.
Hedges is happy to be in the big league camp and wants to be in the majors not in the minors. He reiterated it to Brock:
"“This is exactly where I want to be. I’m lucky to be here. You start to feel like you belong. You feel like you can make a difference in a big league game. The coaches have done a great job making me feel comfortable and preparing me. “"
If Hedges can only scratch the surface of his potential then he will be an everyday major league catcher. His defensive skill and ability cannot be taught. Hitting and the art of it, is something that can be learned. It will take a diligent effort by Hedges to succeed. He is up for the challenge and at his young age the sky is truly the limit.
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