In early December Baseball America’s Matt Eddy revealed his 2014 Padres Prospect list. Earlier this week Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus published his version of the top 10 in the Padres system. The lists were nearly identical with the exception of Keyvius Sampson (Baseball America) and the recently acquired Alex Dickerson (Baseball Prospectus) both listed as the org’s 9th rated prospect.
To no one’s surprise, super-dynamo-defensive-demigod Austin Hedges topped each of the prospect lists for the industry leaders. The Padres system has taken a step backwards as players graduated to the big club (Jedd Gyorko, Robbie Erlin), suffered injury (Casey Kelly, Rymer Liriano), or quite simply lost their prospect luster (Adys Portillo, Corey Spangenberg). But through it all, Austin Hedges has survived atop the heap, expected to contribute to the Padres’ efforts sooner than later.
In mid-December I asked both Matt Eddy and Jason Parks the following hypothetical question:
What would the Padres system look like if Austin Hedges did not exist? How many slots would it drop the Padres system relative to other systems?
Without Hedges, the system would obviously lack the same punch, with only Wilser and Fried in the top 50 (in the minors), with guys like Renfroe and Ross (I really like Ross) fighting to get into the top 101. As much as I love Hedges–and I know you do as well–not everybody in the internet baseball world appreciates him like they should, as we were the only national site that ranked him high in the off-season and mid-season lists; in fact, we were criticized by some of those national voices for suggesting Hedges was a fringe top 10 player in the minors. I’ll stand firmly on that. He might move down a few spots because of prospects like Baez pushing their way into the top tier, but he is a top 20 prospect in the game, the top rated catcher, and a future all-star as far as I’m concerned. If you remove that from the Padres system (or any system for that matter) it leaves a noticeable hole in the heart of the org. Every team hunts for the backstop of the future; its often the white whale of the procurement process. And the Padres found the best defensive catcher in recent memory.
Matt Eddy responded to the question briefly via Twitter:
@AvengingJM No doubt they would cede ground by losing a 60+ OFP player with all-star potential. Probably middle-third org.
— Matt Eddy (@MattEddyBA) December 17, 2013
Both comments tell us something we already know: Austin Hedges is good. While the debate about Hedges continues to center around his offensive ceiling, his mere presence props up a system that has begun to slide* relative to the praise it received during the previous two seasons.
* Alex Dickerson? The guy traded for Jaff Decker cracked the top ten for system prospects? This vexes me. Without ever having seen Alex Dickerson play, I am vexed.
I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly outraged by the location of statues around Petco Park. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM. The dusty archives of AJM are located at avengingjm.blogspot.com