Potentially entering his last chance with the San Diego Padres, let’s see what former second-round pick Austin Hedges can do to improve in 2020.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Austin Hedges was pegged to be the future backstop for the San Diego Padres for the foreseeable future. He made his major league debut in May 2015 and took over as the full-time catcher in 2017. However, he hit .214 in 120 games and followed that up with a .231 and .176 average in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
The Padres tendered him a one-year contract but, if there’s a season, 2020 could be his final chance to prove he’s worth more than a defensive specialist. Let’s look to see where he can improve and how he can achieve it.
Statcast Batting Statistics
Hedges actually logged the best barrel percentage of his career (8.3 percent) last year but at an average launch angle of 20.4-degrees. That means, he popped the ball up a lot. He recorded a career-worst 31.4 percent strikeout rate and struggled massively with any pitch not named a fastball.
Even his .224 average on fastballs is not overly impressive, but ready for this? Hedges hit just .109 and .156 against breaking and offspeed pitches, respectively.
Batted Ball Statistics
As noted, Hedges recorded a career-worst infield pop-up rate (16.1 percent) and the worst flyball percentage (46.0 percent) since 2016. His home run to flyball ratio was also a career-worst (11.8 percent) since 2015, and Hedges reverted to some young player tendencies. He pulled the ball in half of the balls put into play, and his spray chart resembled that of his 2015 season.
Flyballs aren’t a terribly bad thing, but they are when you’re hitting them at a 68.4 non-hard contact percent.
Hedges has never been a threat to swipe bases, but he did convert on his only attempt last year. However, he was not smart was on base, recording six outs, which is easily the worst of his career.
If anything is keeping him on the roster, it’s Hedges’ defensive prowess. He is an excellent pitch framer, logging a career-best 20.7 rating last year while also throwing out 50 percent of baserunners. The league average in this category was just 33 percent.
Hedges’ time is just about up in San Diego and without a glimmer of hope that he can at least prove his worth – in the form of a .240 to .250 average – he’s likely to be gone next year. With Luis Campusano on the way, the pressure is on Hedges now more than ever.