Hedges leads four Padres prospects on Top 100 list
Catcher ranked 24th; pitchers Fried, Wisler and Kelly also in MLB.com's rankings
SAN DIEGO -- Catcher Austin Hedges, named the second-best catching prospect by MLB.com, is one of four players from the Padres' organization to appear in the 2014 Top 100 Prospect rankings, unveiled Thursday night on MLB Network.
Hedges is the Padres' highest-rated player on the list at No. 24, followed by pitchers Max Fried (No. 43), Matt Wisler (No. 78) and Casey Kelly (No. 87).
Hedges is considered one of, if not the best, defensive catchers in the Minor Leagues. In his two-plus seasons in the Minor Leagues, Hedges has thrown out 32 percent (87 of 269) of the would-be basestealers who have tested him. The Major League average for catchers in 2013 was 27.2 percent.
"He's getting really close just to, mechanically, catching in the big leagues," said Padres manager Bud Black, who saw Hedges last fall in the Arizona Fall League. "He's checking off some boxes."
Hedges, who will begin the season with Double-A San Antonio, will be in big league camp next month, the second time in as many years he's done so.
"I think that he embraced the position from an early age," said Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting.
"And he's a very good athlete. No matter what position that you play ... athleticism is critical. He's got good reactions. That's why he's so good at blocking. He can read the ball, anticipate it."
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
Fried, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2012 Draft, was 6-7 with a 3.49 ERA in his first full pro season in 2012 with Class A Fort Wayne. He'll begin the season with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, located about one hour north of San Diego, thus giving members of the Padres' front office easy access to watching his starts in 2014.
"To play and perform at the level you expect from yourself and dealing with the ups and downs and the grind of a Minor League season is something I'm going to take with me," Fried told MLB.com recently. "Now I can better expect and anticipate things that happen during a Minor League season."
Wisler, who could reach the big leagues sometime in 2014, is coming off a breakout season where he was 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA in 26 starts for Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. He'll be in big league camp in February for the first time.
"Guys are really off balance with him, because he can get you out with so many different pitches in a lot of different locations. He does a good job working both sides of the plate -- going up and down, in and out. You can't really get settled in and pick a pitch to hit," said Hedges, who caught Wisler last season.
Kelly missed the entire 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery April 2. His recovery and rehabilitation have gone well and he could be pitching somewhere by midseason.