It’s tourney time, and with 48 players still in Big League camp there was bound to be some rooting interest in the Padres clubhouse. Of the players on the Padres 40-man roster and remaining Spring Training invitees, there are eight players who attended a school that made it to the 2012 NCAA Tournament: Cory Luebke (Ohio State), Clayton Richard (Michigan), Huston Street (Texas), John Baker (Cal), Brad Davis and Nick Vincent (Long Beach State), Alex Hinshaw (SDSU) and Jedd Gyorko (West Virginia). In addition, Bud Black will join Alex Hinshaw in pulling for the Aztecs tomorrow morning vs. NC State.
Baker’s Cal Bears were eliminated last night in the tournament’s “First Four” round vs. USF. Each of the other six teams earned spots in the tournament’s round of 64. While none of the players will face each other in the first round, there is the possibility of a West Virginia (Gyorko)/Ohio State (Luebke) matchup in the second round.
Six of the seven teams are slotted on the right side of the bracket, leaving Davis and Vincent (Long Beach State) an uphill battle to face one of their Padres teammates.
The Padres come to Spring Training with a new-found depth at catcher, a strength that goes beyond the seven players in Big League camp.
Reporting along with the pitchers on Sunday were Nick Hundley (no introduction needed), John Baker (acquired from MIA in exchange for Wade LeBlanc) and Yasmani Grandal (acquired from CIN in Mat Latos trade), all off the 40-man roster. Also in camp are non-roster invites Brad Davis, Jason Hagerty, Eddy Rodriguez and Ali Solis.
Not far behind is one of the Padres most exciting prospects. Austin Hedges, a 19-year-old catcher out of San Juan Capistrano, was selected by San Diego in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Hundley enters camp expected to be the Padres go-to man behind the dish. He is coming off a year in which he set career highs in nearly every offensive category, including runs, hits, triples, home runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Hundley also started a career-high-tying 73 games behind the plate, a total he is likely to top in 2012.
The acquisition of Grandal from MIA instantly inserted a top catching prospect into the Padres organization, strengthening the club’s position as having one of the top minor league systems. Ranked by Baseball-America as the Padres’ No. 2 prospect and No. 53 in all of baseball, Grandal flew through the minors last season, playing at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A in the Reds organziation.
Hedges has been named the Padres No. 6 prospect by Baseball-America despite playing just nine games as a professional. He was widely considered the top defensive catching prospect when selected 82nd overall in the 2011 draft.