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Transition should be smooth for Hedges

Padres promoting No. 2 prospect primarily for prowess behind plate
MLB.com @JonathanMayo

Ever since he was one of the best catching prospects in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, people have been talking about Austin Hedges' defense. It still is calling card, and it will continue to be now that he's been called up to the big leagues by the Padres.

Hedges' scouting report back from the Draft doesn't look a whole lot different than it does now. Here's his entry on Prospect Watch from 2011, where he was ranked No. 31 on MLB.com's Draft Top 50:

Ever since he was one of the best catching prospects in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, people have been talking about Austin Hedges' defense. It still is calling card, and it will continue to be now that he's been called up to the big leagues by the Padres.

Hedges' scouting report back from the Draft doesn't look a whole lot different than it does now. Here's his entry on Prospect Watch from 2011, where he was ranked No. 31 on MLB.com's Draft Top 50:

There may not be a better catcher in this class, at least defensively, than Hedges, a SoCal high school product. An extremely polished defender who draws comparisons to Craig Biggio and Brad Ausmus in terms of body type, Hedges has a plus throwing arm and outstanding receiving skills, not to mention a high-energy leadership style. How much he will hit will determine just how good an all-around backstop he'll be. While he's got a good approach at the plate, he hasn't hit consistently. He does have natural power, and that's a little bit ahead of his hit tool right now. He could be the type of catcher who hits .260 with 12-15 homers per year, and with his defensive acumen, that's more than enough to be an everyday player. If he exceeds expectations with the bat, though, he could be an All-Star behind the plate. With a commitment to UCLA, it's believed he will not be an easy sign after the Draft.

Video: SD@LAA: Hedges lofts a two-run single to right

Indeed, Hedges wasn't an easy sign and San Diego gave him $3 million in the second round to lure him away from that commitment. It's been his glove that has carried him up the Padres' system; he's one of just four on MLB.com's current Top 100 who got a 70 grade (on the 20-80 scouting scale) for his defense. Hedges has thrown out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in his career, and there's no reason to think that his plus arm won't continue to help shut down the running game at the big league level.

The question has always been about how much Hedges will hit when all is said and done. He was swinging the bat well during his first taste of Triple-A this season, and people should keep in mind he's only 22 years old. Hedges has always had a decent approach at the plate, though he seemed to regress during his time in Double-A in 2013-14. There's still the chance he can fulfill the projections laid out in his Draft profile back in 2011.

For now, as Derek Norris' backup, Hedges shouldn't have to put too much pressure on himself to produce offensively. Anything he does with the bat will be a bonus. Hedges' arm and overall receiving skills will be counted on whenever he's asked to go behind the plate. It's what got him here, and it is what will allow him to stay in the Majors for a long time and potentially win Gold Glove Awards when he becomes an everyday catcher.

When that happens remains to be seen, given that Norris isn't eligible for free agency until 2019. But that's a discussion for another day.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Diego Padres