50 in 50: Austin Hedges

Draft : : Top Prospects
David Rawnsley        
Published: Sunday, May 29, 2011

Austin Hedges
C / Junipero Serra High School

Height/Weight: 6-1/185
Hometown: San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
College Commitment: UCLA
Birthdate: Aug. 18, 1992

The 2011 high-school class has plenty of outstanding defensive prospects, including shortstops like Francisco Lindor (Florida), Julius Gaines (Georgia) and Trevor Story (Texas), and outfielders like Bubba Starling (Kansas) and Tanner English (South Carolina). But the one prospect that most stands out on that side of the ball is Hedges, who was named the 2010 Rawlings National Defensive Player of the Year as a junior. While Southern California scouts have been debating all spring if they may not have a true first-round, high-school prospect in their mix for the first time in draft history, Hedges has emerged as the leading candidate to prevent that distinction from occurring. His advanced skills at the most-demanding of defensive positions could be the difference-maker. He excels in all areas of catching, and plays the position with high energy. Hedges has a shortstop’s build with wide shoulders and slender, quick hips, and plays his position a lot like a highly-athletic shortstop would play his. He is exceptionally light on his feet with cat-like quickness in shifting and blocking. He also receives the ball cleanly with soft hands and has a deliberate, compact release on his throws to go with above-average raw arm strength. At Perfect Game’s National Showcase last summer, Hedges had 1.75 pop times in drills, 1.85 between innings and 1.90 in games with regularity. He has shown those same times with regularity this spring. Hedges is so polished defensively that he may be the best catcher in this year’s draft, more-experienced college catchers included. But there is also a strong chance that he may not be the first catcher drafted. That distinction could go to New Mexico’s Blake Swihart, who is the best offensive catcher in the country and could play a number of other positions. While his defense overshadows his offense, Hedges should still hit well enough in the future to be an everyday big-league catcher. He has a simple righthanded swing with good flow to contact that he keeps short and direct to the ball. He is primarily a line-drive hitter with some gap power, and should continue to drive balls with more regularity as he gets stronger. As a senior for Junipero Serra High, he hit a respectable .366-4-16 with 11 doubles. A concern for scouts is Hedges’ signability. He is a 4.0-plus student and his commitment to UCLA is perceived as being very strong. Should Hedges skip through the draft and attend UCLA, he most likely would miss catching top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, which would have been a treat to see, but UCLA has plenty of other talented young arms for Hedges to work with in the future.

Projected Draft Position:
Late First Round/Sandwich Round

Perfect Game Events Attended:
    2007 BCS 16u So Cal Regional
    2010 National Showcase
    2010 AFLAC All-American Game

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