NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Austin Hedges #24 of the United States looks on from the dugout during the game against the World Team on July 14, 2013 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The United States defeated the World Team 4-2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The Padres seem to be in perpetual rebuilding mode. But the good news is, it looks like they're finally doing it with legitimate big league ballplayers instead of the Matt Bushes, Donavan Tates and Sean Burroughses of the world.
This week Baseball America says 21-year-old Austin Hedges is quite possibly the best catching prospect in the game. He's already the most advanced defensively and has a more advanced plate approach than most people expected.
The Padres drafted Hedges with the 82nd pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Juniperro Serra H.S. in southern California. All 30 big league clubs had him on the radar, but passed because they thought signability was an issue.
Hedges is a smart kid who enjoys school and had a full ride to UCLA waiting for him. The Padres liked his game so much, they offered a $3,000,000 signing bonus (tied for the 3rd-largest in club history). Their gamble seems to be paying off.
It would not be out of the question to see Hedges in the Major Leagues as early as next September for a late-season callup. He'll definitely be in the mix to try and win a starting job in Spring Training of 2015.