Padres Pay Up To Get Ross, Hedges

High school prospects get over-slot deals

SAN DIEGO—Joe Ross and Austin Hedges met last summer at a showcase in Florida.

And Ross, a righthander from Bishop O'Dowd High in Oakland, and Hedges, a catcher from JSerra High in the Southern California beach town San Juan Capistrano, "had a connection right away," said Hedges.

"Joe was the first guy I caught, and we clicked," he said. "We stayed in touch and when he committed to UCLA, he called me. Then I committed, too."

The Bruins will never see Ross and Hedges play for them, as both signed Aug. 15 to play with the Padres. Ross, a first-round pick, signed for $2.75 million. Hedges, a second-rounder, got $3 million, which ranked as the ninth-highest bonus in the 2011 draft class.

Both Ross and Hedges saw limited action in the final two weeks of the Rookie-level Arizona League season. Both will report back to Arizona in September for instructional league.

"I hope we can stay together," Ross said. "Austin is the most amazing catcher I've ever thrown to . . . not just the pop on his throws, but the way he calls a game."
Hedges has been touted as the best defensive catching prospect in a decade. Assistant general manager Jason McLeod said Hedges "is the best defender I've seen at any position since (Nationals third baseman) Ryan Zimmerman at Virginia."

Both Ross and Hedges agreed to terms just minutes before the signing deadline on Aug. 15. It was crucial for the organization, considering it failed to sign 2010 first-rounder Karsten Whitson

But the day was very different for the pair. Ross was in Sacramento watching his brother Tyson pitch for the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Athletics.

"I wasn't too worried," Ross said. "I knew it would work out. I had a 50-50 decision to make, either UCLA or the Padres. I came down to the wire, and we got it done."

Hedges said he knew the night before he was signing with the Padres. "So Monday was kind of relaxing," he said.


• The Padres spent a team-record $11 million in this year's draft and signed 35 of their 53 draft picks, including 25 of the top 26. Catcher Brett Austin, the 54th overall pick, was the only unsigned player in the top 23 rounds. He will play at North Carolina State.

• Righthander Burch Smith, a 14th-round pick out of Oklahoma, signed at the deadline for $250,000. Smith went 10-4, 3.90 for the Sooners this spring.