San Diego Padres Counting On Austin Hedges To Breakout Offensively


San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges played 120 games behind the plate last year. The more he got accustomed to life in MLB, the more his productivity surged. The Padres are hoping 2018 will be Hedges’ breakout season at the plate.

When the San Diego Padres drafted Austin Hedges in the 2nd round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, they knew they were getting a defensively gifted receiver with high offensive upside. Over close to seven seasons in the minors, Hedges proved his capability behind the plate and also made considerable progress as a hitter.

Although his first season in the big leagues was not extraordinary by any means, there were several areas that Austin Hedges excelled in. As per Jeff Sanders of The San Diego Union-Tribune, Hedges was second in MLB in pitch framing (20.8 FR) and was also ranked first among MLB catchers in fielding runs above average (26.7).

His 38% caught-stealing percentage was eighth in the league among catchers with at least 80 starts. As a rookie for the San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges certainly turned more than a few heads with his defensive skills. At the plate, though, it took Hedges a little time before he found his confidence, and in turn, found his swing.

Cleary, the San Diego Padres think very highly of their promising young catcher Austin Hedges. After spending most of last season with the Padres, the starting job behind the plate is his heading into 2018.

Austin Hedges – San Diego Padres – MiLB Stats

Austin Hedges was never considered to be an offensive powerhouse during his development. Throughout his time in MiLB, Hedges performed well at the plate, but it was his defense that allowed him to advance through the San Diego Padres farm system so quickly.

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San Diego Padres Austin Hedges’ Offensive Development

In Hedges’ 19-year-old season with Fort Wayne (Single-A), he slashed .279/.334/.451 with 10 HR, 56 RBI, and a monstrous 28 doubles. This was a very nice surprise for the Padres, again, believing Hedges to be a defense-first player up until that point.

The next year, split between High-A and Low Double-A, Hedges continued to produce at the plate, nearly matching his stats from the previous season at Single-A (.260/.333/.390). His OBP through his first two-plus seasons in the minors was a gaudy .360.

To the San Diego Padres, this type of development was the equivalent of flopping three-of-a-kind after checking on a 7-2 off-suit big blind. Austin Hedges was transforming into an unexpected on-base monster.

Hedges’ 2014 season at Double-A San Antonio saw a drop-off in his production. Making over 100 more plate appearances than he ever had before in MiLB, Austin Hedges only hit .225 and his OBP dropped drastically to .268. His twenty-seven extra-base hits (6 HR, 19 doubles, 2 triples) were probably the most concerning facets of his poor offensive season.

San Diego Padres Prospect Austin Hedges Excels in PCL

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Even after Hedges’ struggles in 2014, the Padres saw it fit to promote Austin Hedges to the infamously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League for the 2015 season.

It’s with El Paso, the San Diego Padres Triple-A affiliate, where Hedges found his most success as a hitter.

In 2015 Hedges only played in 21 games for El Paso. In 71 at-bats, Hedges hit .324 with two HR, 15 RBI, and eight doubles.

His .392 on-base percentage and .521 slugging percentage are the stats that really stand out though.

The San Diego Padres didn’t think Hedges could sustain this type of production. It was likely just a byproduct of playing in the high-altitude, dry weather of the PCL. And then Austin Hedges showed up in 2016 and blew away those small sample-sized numbers from 2015.

Austin Hedges tore up the Pacific Coast League in 2016. In 82 games played, Hedges slash line was .326/.353/.597. He hit 20 home runs, drove in 82 runs, scored another 55, and broke the 100-hit plateau (102 H; 20 doubles, 1 triple).

Welcome to the San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges

After being named to the San Diego Padres Opening Day roster last season, Austin Hedges found out pretty quickly just how tough life in MLB can be. He didn’t collect his first base hit until his ninth game (single vs. COL on 4/12). He was able to raise his batting average from .000 on April 12th to .203 by the end of April. Slowly but surely, Austin Hedges was finding his way.

Throughout the rest of 2017, Austin Hedges continued to improve and looked more and more comfortable at the plate as the season wore on. May and June both saw Hedges take great strides offensively while seeing regular playing time at the game’s highest level.

By the time the dog days rolled around, though, it was easy to remember that Austin Hedges was still a rookie. His strikeouts shot up, ending the season with a whopping 122 Ks. His 18 HR and 55 RBI indicate that even as a first-year player, Hedges offensive potential is considerable.

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Hopefully, as Austin Hedges begins his second year as the San Diego Padres starting backstop, he continues to progress and make improvements.

The sky is the limit for Austin Hedges. And with the treasure trove of highly-touted prospects that are coming through the Padres farm system, Hedges could become the cornerstone of an early-2020’s San Diego Padres dynasty.