Austin Hedges took over as the Padres' primary catcher in 2017, playing 120 games and retaining some of the home-run gains he brought to the table at Triple-A El Paso in 2016. Unfortunately, top-level pitching nearly doubled Hedges' strikeout rate from his Triple-A mark, as he fanned 29.3 percent of the time last season. Not surprisingly, Hedges' batting average tumbled to .214, and his low walk rate (5.5 percent) kept him from being more of an asset to the San Diego lineup. One thing working in his favor, however, is that his defense will continue to afford him a lot of playing time. Moreover, Hedges' development of game power took several years as he advanced through the system, but strikeouts were never an overwhelming issue for him throughout his time as a prospect. At 25, he may not be a completely finished project as a hitter, but expecting more than a .230-.240 average and 20 homers is likely a stretch.
Hedges worked with assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington during the offseason to adjust his swing, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reports. The defensive whiz struggled a bit at the plate last year, posting just a .214 batting average. Given that, it's not surprising his primary focus this winter was hitting. Reports say he hasn't removed the leg kick from his swing, so the alterations hopefully won't sap the power that helped him hit 18 homers in 2017. The new plate approach is geared more toward making contact and having better patience, although the new swing hasn't actually been seen yet. The fantasy implications of this adjustment should become apparent once Hedges employs his new swing in Cactus League action.
Hedges is not in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Giants. Hedges' rough offensive season will come to an end, as he'll be replaced in the starting lineup by Rocky Gale. The 25-year-old will finish the year with a .214 average and 29.3 percent strikeout rate in his 120 games played.
Hedges is not in the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Dodgers. Hedges will head to the bench for a breather after starting four of the previous five games behind the dish, going 5-for-12 (.417) with three extra-base hits over that stretch. Luis Torrens takes over at backstop in his stead.
Hedges is not in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Rockies. Hedges will head to the bench for what appears to be a standard day of rest after starting the past three games and going 3-for-3 with a double and run scored in Saturday's win. Rocky Gale will take over behind the plate and bat eighth.
Hedges went 3-for-3 with a walk, a double, a stolen base and a run scored in Saturday's 5-0 win over Colorado. Hedges' main asset this season has been his power (18 home runs), but his four steals rank sixth among all major-league catchers. The 25-year-old's counting stats have made his .217 batting average tolerable for fantasy owners.