Austin Hedges Hits Expectations For Padres





SAN DIEGO—The $3 million bonus to catcher Austin Hedges was the largest the Padres have paid a player drafted after the first round. Fifteen months and one full baseball season later, the Padres are thrilled with their investment.

"You don't want to get carried away, but the kid's got a chance to be a star," farm director Randy Smith said. "I can't say enough good things about him right now."

Hedges showed he can catch and throw, as expected, but the righthanded hitter also smacked 28 doubles and 10 home runs for low Class A Fort Wayne. After hitting .279/.334/.451 in 337 at-bats for the TinCaps, Hedges placed a cherry on top of the sundae by going 9-for-14 during instructional league.

Padres staffers, who saw him blast a home run and hit a triple, named Hedges the most outstanding offensive player of instructionals.

Hedges is more muscular than when the Padres selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft out of JSerra High in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. On the same August day that the Padres introduced him to the media, Hedges slugged several home runs in batting practice at Petco Park.

Against minor league pitchers, he continued to hit the ball hard.

"Hedgey is strong," Smith said. "He's got power. He's going to hit the ball out of the ballpark at the major league level. Offensively, he looks great. He's got an advanced approach now. He stays in the middle of the field, knows what he wants to do."

Hedges, 20, developed a sore shoulder last spring, and a few scouts said some of his throws lagged early in the season. He got healthy and regularly got the ball to second base in 1.8 to 2.0 seconds.

Of all his accomplishments this year, playing 94 games behind the plate may have topped the list.

"Just to go out and play every day and be really consistent was a major thing for a 19-year-old kid in the Midwest League," Smith said. "His catching got better as the year went along, as he got used to catching every day and handling a staff with good stuff."

FATHER FIGURES

• Outfielder Rymer Liriano got off to an 11-for-32 start in the Arizona Fall League, with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs.

• Limited to 14 starts this year by an elbow injury, lefthander Robbie Erlin had yielded just one run in two appearances covering five innings in the AFL.