Padres: Three questions needing answers when season begins

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San Diego Padres, Francisco Mejia

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

How will the Padres split playing time between Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia?

To say that Austin Hedges has been a disappointment since being taken in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft would be a massive understatement. The 27-year-old has a career .201 batting average and is essentially revered for his pitch framing abilities and defensive prowess behind home plate. Don’t get me wrong, defense and pitch framing are key attributes you look for in a franchise catcher, but he can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

And when the Padres acquired Francisco Mejia in July 2018, Hedges’ future behind the plate was seriously put in doubt. The Padres backstop was downright awful last year, hitting .176 in 102 games, while Mejia hit .265 with eight home runs and 22 RBI in a 79-game sample size.

Mejia, 24, looks to have a higher ceiling than his counterpart at this point, and I think many were surprised that the Padres brought Hedges back in 2020, despite being until team control for another couple of years. So when the season begins, it will be interesting to see how Jayce Tingler splits time between the two.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that Luis Torrens may not play much this year, given how short the season will be, and the fact that Hedges needs to prove he’s worth keeping around another year. Having the Designated Hitter role available to the National League in 2020 will open some doors for Mejia to play the same day that Hedges is behind the plate, and potentially vice versa.

Although it would seem to make more sense that someone like Wil Myers or Josh Naylor serves as the DH on days that Mejia catches, given Hedges’ track record at the plate. Some key stats from 2019 for the Padres pitching staff as a group:

  • Hedges: 4.08 ERA, 9.5K/9, .238 AVG
  • Mejia: 4.80 ERA, 8.9 K/9, .262 AVG

Chris Paddack has arguably the most noticeable difference between the two backstops, posting a 2.55 ERA and 5.18 ERA with Hedges and Mejia, respectively. You have to believe that Hedges could be Paddack’s personal catcher, of sorts, this year.

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