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Hedges on Gold Glove: 'I should win it'

@AJCassavell
September 25, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- There isn’t a doubt in Austin Hedges' mind: He's been the best defensive catcher in the National League this season. He should win his first Gold Glove Award. "Honestly, I don't think it's that close," Hedges said. "If you look at the numbers, it really isn't close.

SAN DIEGO -- There isn’t a doubt in Austin Hedges' mind: He's been the best defensive catcher in the National League this season. He should win his first Gold Glove Award.

"Honestly, I don't think it's that close," Hedges said. "If you look at the numbers, it really isn't close. I should win it."

Sure enough, the numbers back Hedges' claim. His 22 defensive runs saved behind the plate are eight more than Buster Posey and 10 more than J.T. Realmuto. He's been worth 20 runs through framing, according to Statcast -- seven more than Tyler Flowers and eight more than Yasmani Grandal.

Hedges has put forth one of the best defensive seasons in all of baseball, and it seems reasonable to think he'd be rewarded with some hardware in early November.

There might be one hangup: His bat. Hedges has slumped to a .179 batting average and a .568 OPS this season. And while the Gold Glove Award is supposed to be based solely on defensive performance, Hedges isn’t convinced.

"In the National League and in the American League, it's not close at catcher," Hedges said. "It should be me and Roberto Pérez [of the Indians]. I think he's a lock to win it. He's having a great offensive season, and he might win the platinum glove. But I'll be surprised if I win [a Gold Glove]."

That sentiment stems from Hedges' past experience. In his first two full seasons, he put forth gaudy defensive numbers. But he's never been named as one of the three finalists at catcher.

Hedges feels as though those snubs were merely the result of his poor offensive performance.

"That's a dumb argument," he added. "It's not an offensive award."

Hedges was willing to concede one point on that front. His poor performance at the plate this season has led to a lack of playing time behind it. Hedges' 797 innings caught rank eighth in the National League -- well behind Realmuto and Grandal. Hedges has ceded a chunk of playing time to Francisco Mejía behind the dish.

"If I'm hitting more, then I'm playing more, and my numbers defensively would be better than what they are," Hedges said. "But they're still good enough to win it, in my opinion."

To be clear, the defensive metrics mentioned above are all counting stats. That means Hedges' playing time is already baked into the equation. And he's still well above the competition.

Interim manager Rod Barajas, a 14-year big league catcher himself, is quick to point out that Hedges' case is about more than just numbers.

"That's an easy one," Barajas said. "He's a Gold Glover. What he's been able to do with an extremely young pitching staff and how he's been able to guide these guys -- it's not just the blocking the receiving and the throwing. It's the whole package."

Unlike Hedges, Barajas seems a bit more confident in the process.

"Nowadays, if you're a good defender, people realize it,” he said. “Nick Ahmed [of the D-backs] last year didn't have a great year on offense. But people realized he was the best shortstop in the National League, and he deserved the Gold Glove. They gave it to him.

"Hopefully people look past it and say, ‘Who's the best with the glove behind the plate?’"

The Padres -- including Hedges himself -- think that answer's obvious.

Hedges is quick to acknowledge that his performance at the plate needs to improve. The Padres find themselves in a bind entering the offseason with a defensive wiz in Hedges and a potential offensive force in Mejía. The club also has a deep contingent of Minor League catching options, led by Luis Campusano and Luis Torrens.

Hedges could very easily find himself on the trade block this winter. His long-term value projections remain a mystery, given the juxtaposition of his defensive excellence with his floundering offense.

But that dialogue doesn't interest Hedges. The 27-year-old backstop has one objective this winter.

"Just like I always do, I'm going to try to get better," Hedges said. "All of it's out of my hands. All I can do is show up next spring ready to go."

If a few things break his way, he'll show up with his first Gold Glove in tow.

Noteworthy
• The Padres honored longtime broadcaster Ted Leitner on Wednesday night with a pregame ceremony. Leitner, who is wrapping up his 40th season behind the mic, threw out the first pitch ahead of the Padres' game against the Dodgers.

• Three games into his tenure as interim manager, Barajas was asked the difference between managing at Triple-A El Paso and in the big leagues.

"A lot more media and a lot more questions you have to answer," he quipped. "But it's still about managing people. These guys are professionals, and they do things the right way. That's my job -- to make sure these guys are being held accountable and doing what they're doing. In that aspect, it hasn't changed at all. It's a bigger stadium, bigger crowd, more media. But it's just baseball."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.