Hedges shows off arm behind plate in Fall Stars Game
Padres prospect throws out two would-be basestealers in first three innings
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Multiple homer games might sound like fun, and there were two hitters at the Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars Game on Saturday who did just that, but throwing out two baserunners in one game on this stage must be a lot cooler, right?
"Oh, come on now," Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges joked.
While Most Valuable Player Brett Nicholas of the Rangers and Mariners outfielder Stefen Romero may get most of the headlines for each hitting two home runs in the West Division's 9-2 victory over the East, Hedges' performance should definitely not be lost. The No. 33 prospect on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on the Padres' Top 20 gunned down two would-be basestealers to help keep the East out of scoring position until the West offense took over and put the game away.
"It was awesome," Hedges said. "I definitely wanted to come in here and show what I can do on both sides of the ball, but to be able to throw out two guys, with catching being my thing, it was pretty cool to be able to do that and put a couple of good throws on there. I was definitely excited and pleased. I'd love to be able to hit two home runs, too, but for me, throwing out two guys is pretty cool."
Defense has long been Hedges' thing. Coming out of high school, scouts raved about his overall defensive game behind the plate. It's not just throwing; Hedges calls a good game, works with pitchers well and has excellent hands. But thanks to a ridiculously quick release and excellent footwork, it's his ability to control a running game that probably gets the most notice. The 2011 second-round pick threw out 35 percent of would-be basestealers across two levels in 2013 and he was back at it on Saturday, helping West starter Alex Meyer of the Twins put up three scoreless innings.
Hedges didn't wait long to show off his skills. Nationals prospect Brian Goodwin singled with one out in the first inning, but then made the mistake of trying to run. Hedges threw him out, then Meyer struck out Cubs prospect Kris Bryant to end the inning.
In the second, Cardinals prospect James Ramsey bunted his way on with one out. Meyer got Goodwin to strike out with Ramsey going on what looked like a hit-and-run play. Hedges easily threw out Ramsey to end the frame. And just before that play, Hedges threw behind Ramsey at first in an attempt to pick him off, something Hedges enjoys doing.
"Back picking is fun, trying to get a free out for your pitcher," Hedges said. "I had a good opportunity with a lefty up. I like to do it there, because they can't see you as well. I had a good opportunity and almost got him. But it was worth a try."
It was particularly worthwhile on such a stage. Hedges' defensive strength has long been talked and written about, but there haven't been too many opportunities for a larger audience to see it. He did play in the Futures Game, but there weren't the kind of chances that popped up for him on Saturday. And he was thrilled to take advantage of that.
"I want to be able to show off what I can do," Hedges said. "To be able to do that on TV -- I know I had a lot of family watching, a lot of friends, too -- to be able to do that, it was a lot of fun out there. There was a lot of really, really good talent. To be able to show I can hang with the guys, I was pleased I could go out there and show I could do that."