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.
Yesterday was a big day for the Padres as they agreed to terms with three of their top draft selections on the final day of signing. As is customary with the early picks from each year, it came down to the last minute and the Padres landed a bevy of talent to add to their minor league system.
The club yesterday signed right-handed pitcher Joe Ross, selected in the first round, right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly, selected in the compensation round and catcher Austin Hedges, selected in the second round.
When all the dust settled, the Padres signed 26 of their top 27 picks from this year’s draft.
Here is a little bit of info on the newest Padres, straight from the press release:
Ross, 18, was selected 25th overall in the first round by the Padres. The right-hander was selected out of Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif., where he posted a 0.83 ERA and 95 strikeouts over 67.2 innings during his senior campaign.
Kelly, 18, was selected 48th overall in the compensation round (for right-handed pitcher Jon Garland). He was selected out of West Boca Community High School (FL). The right-hander played in the 2010 Aflac All-American Baseball Classic at PETCO Park.
Hedges, 18, was the Padres’ second-round selection out of Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The right-handed hitter was rated as the 12th-best position player prospect in the 2011 draft class by Baseball America, as well as one of the best defensive catchers.