The Padres promoted top catching prospect Austin Hedges, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune. The move will come in time for the series opener against the division rival Giants in San Fransisco on Monday.
Hedges, 22, is ranked the #50 overall prospect by MLB.com. He’s widely regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the minors. He has an incredible pop-time, with a quick release and a strong accurate arm.
Hedges had an underwhelming year offensively last year in double-A San Antonio, where he batted just .225/.268/.321. Hedges is making vast improvements offensively to prove wrong the naysayers, who still are not sold on his bat. He was off to a blistering start in triple-A with a triple slash line of 343/.413/.55 in 75 plate appearances, with two home runs and 15 RBI.
It’s unclear whether the Padres will DFA veteran catcher Will Nieves to make room, but that seems almost inevitable given his lack of production and awful defensive showing with the Padres.
It’s also a good time to get Hedges feet wet with Interleague play this month against the Mariners and Angels. Hedges’ promotion means Derek Norris will likely spend time as DH in those series. It would be huge for Norris to get some rest, as he’s caught 22 of 26 games this year.
It remains to be seen how long Austin Hedges will share time with Norris. As hot as Norris has been, don’t expect him to sit barring any serious injury. I also wouldn’t completely rule out a semi-showcasing to a degree, as Hedges has been involved in trade talks all winter; and well, A.J. Preller.