When the Padres acquired Pedro Avila from the Nationals last December, he was just an ordinary prospect—or at least he was supposed to be one. You can’t expect to get a good prospect for Derek Norris, not after Norris put up a .222/.283/.370 slash line in two seasons in San Diego, bottoming out in 2016.

Since coming over to the Padres, however, Avila’s quietly been distancing himself from ordinary prospect territory, as Ryan Luz documented recently over at Padres Prospectus. He’s back at Single-A currently, after some moderate struggles with Lake Elsinore earlier this year, but he’s still struck out 28 percent and allowed just 0.4 HR/9 on the season, rosy numbers for a 20-year-old no matter the level.

Then, last night happened. Avila gathered his favorite loud noise instruments—his vuvuzelas and his fog horns and his trumpets—and ensured himself a little attention in a farm system packed with attention-hogging prospects. Facing the Great Lakes Loons, in front of 3,018 patrons at a place called Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan, Avila struck out 17 and walked none in eight innings.

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Well, it finally happened.  The path has been made clear for Austin Hedges to begin the year as the Padres starting catcher with the trade of veteran Derek Norris.  Most would argue that Norris’ horrific year at the plate in 2016 (.186/.255/.328, 56 OPS+) all but guaranteed that Hedges would get the lion’s share of the playing time anyways, but with Norris being shipped off to the Washington Nationals, San Diego will avoid even a shred of catching controversy.

While Norris is a good buy-low/rebound candidate (he had the highest “hard contact” rate and “line drive” rate of his career last year, at 34.4% and 21.9%, respectively), he obviously doesn’t fit in the competitive window the Padres are shooting for.  Hedges doesn’t have much left to learn at Triple-A El Paso (.326/.353/.597 with a career high 21 dingers and 82 RBI), so this afternoon, the time was right for AJ Preller’s first post-suspension trade.

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