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Humor me here…

Austin Hedges’ first 31 plate appearances of 2017 – .037/.133/.037 with a 9/2 strikeout to walk ratio.

Alex Bregman’s first 32 plate appearances of 2016 – .031/.088/.031 with a 10/2 strikeout to walk ratio.

Since then, Hedges has a slash line of .278/.289/.833 as he entered Monday night’s bout with the Diamondbacks. The most important driver in his .833 slugging percentage is the five home runs he has smacked since a rough start to the season. Well, make that six, as Hedges took everybody’s favorite former Colorado Rockies ace Jorge De La Rosa deep in Chase last night (bring on the humidor!). In case you forgot about Bregman’s stretch after his rough start last year, the immensely touted prospect slashed .297/.372/.432 in his 42 plate appearances after the drought and finished with a 1.0 WAR after only 49 games. After this run by Hedges, I’m seriously considering a reworking of this column’s title.

Cheap home runs from the catcher wasteland? Sign me up.

Hedges is just around 20% owned in ESPN leagues, which jumped about a 15% in what seems like a matter of minutes. The Padres’ backstop found some love this offseason from crazy analysts who actually dig into the catcher position. That hype was well deserved too, I included Hedges in my own batch of sleepers, because he had some power upside at a position that is perpetually morbid to deal with. I noted in that column inflated PCL numbers at AAA, and while I completely understood the skepticism stemming from that environment, I kept in the back of my mind that Hedges struggled to find his home run stroke at AAA in his brief stint during 2015. That changed when he hit 21 home runs over 82 games at AAA during 2016. Should we attribute this to the PCL? Of course, but not as much as many who tossed aside Hedges did. It’s not like the PCL woke up and decided to start carrying more Hedges’ homers out of the park. I felt it was necessary to attribute some of the power improvement to Hedges’ maturation and ability to adjust.

Speaking of adjustments, Hedges made one last week in Atlanta that is likely the reason for his quick turn around. In the video below, keep a close eye on the erratic movement of Hedges’ hands as he loads up his swing. It’s a twitching motion that doesn’t really follow a pattern or rhythm that would scream ‘timing mechanism’ as many other quick-muscle movements before a swing might.

Now let’s watch a home run from Hedges the other day. Again, keep an eye on the load just before the ball is released from Dan Straily’s hand. Notice this time, there isn’t an erratic twitching motion we saw in the video above. There is similar hand placement and follow through, but Hedges ironed out the weird twitch he came into this season with.

I’ll admit, I was tipped off to this point after seeing a 20 second clip of Padres’ hitting coach Alan Zinter mentioning Hedges’ adjustments and recent success. It’s important to see actual adjustments from players this young, as opposed to attributing success to a few grooved pitches. I wish I had keen enough vision to notice this without the hitting coach pointing it out, but I have to give credit where credit it due. I also wish I had keen enough vision to notice the Padres actually had a hitting coach before this video. See what I did there?!

Owners who cut bait on Hedges probably did so for a catcher that hasn’t produced as much as Hedges has through this point in the season. Now leading the catcher position with six homers, Hedges is starting to edge himself into the discussion with names like James McCann and Jett Bandy. Wait, those names don’t impress you? Well they should as the McCann/Bandy tandem (name a more iconic duo) are your surprise top five catchers in terms of rotisserie production through the early stages of 2017. If this is any evidence, the catcher position is really a wasteland.

The likelihood of all three finishing inside the top five come October is unlikely, but why I’m not giving up on Hedges entirely comes from another reason I liked him as one of my sleepers preseason.

Playing time.

San Diego Union-Tribune and manager Andy Green reported that Hedges ‘sweet spot’ for Hedges’ starts this year would be in the 120-135 game range. This is in part because Hedges is actually an above average defensive catcher and handles the staff well. 130 starts is going to give him about 450-500 plate appearances. There were 14 catchers in 2016 with 450+ plate appearances. 13 of those catchers finished inside the top 14 catchers of the season for roto leagues, the new entrant being El Kraken himself, Gary Sanchez.

At the catcher position, playing time is gold.

Here at Razzball, we’re giving Hedges pretty mediocre projections on the stats front for the rest of the season, due mainly to the belief he only plays 74 more games. This is a prediction that Hedges only plays 92 games total this season, 38 off from Andy Green’s want of ~130. It probably also doesn’t account for the change in Hedges’ spot in the batting order either. After batting sixth or above only twice in his first ten games, Hedges has batted sixth or above seven times in his last eight games (And fifth two starts in a row). On top of the playing time, a catcher batting near the top half of any team’s order is only a positive for his counting stat potential. I’m hoping we see this fifth or sixth slot in the order as the spot Hedges dominates when looking back at Andy Green’s lineup combinations come midseason.

If we believe the Padres’ Manager, Razzball’s projection scaled for another 36 games (assuming a total of 130) would move the speculated .241AVG/27R/10HR/33RBI line to about .241AVG/44R/15HR/53RBI.

That’s a 20 home run catcher sitting on waivers in 80% of ESPN leagues. More importantly, that gerrymandered line is better than what we at Razzball have projected for Dodgers’ stud Yasmani Grandal over his next 91 games (.234AVG/43R/15HR/46RBI). It may be comparing apples to oranges to place side by side the scaled Razzball Hedges projection with the standard Razzball Grandal projection, and I acknowledge that. Razzball isn’t projecting any catcher to catch more than 102 games rest of season and my scaled line is implying Hedges catches another 114 to get to 130.

Take the concept with a grain of salt, but looking at what Hedges is capable of doing places him in the 12 team ownership conversation very quickly. It’s not insane to envision a universe where at the end of the season, Hedges and Grandal are a lot closer in production than the 140 spots of ADP implied on draft day.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, I’m always responsive in answering questions and do my best to entertain and inform throughout the season! @LanceBrozdow

   
  1. Josh says:
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    Lost Hanniger to the DL. Who would you pick out of this waiver lot?

    Hernan Perez
    David Peralta
    Corey DIckerson
    Kepler
    Reddick
    HIcks
    Altherr
    Motter

    thanks!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Josh:
      That’s a nice crop of guys to pick from…

      I’d probably go Kepler, Peralta, Perez if we’re talking full season value.

      Like Motter but think he’ll be pushed out of playing time end of season if this Haniger injury doesn’t linger. And if he struggles, I can see some Tyler O’Neil situations arising.

      Like Altherr too, but same scenario as above, he’s one of my favorite NL only plays right now though.

  2. Sport says:
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    Great write up! All the more reason I follow Razzball advice and never drat a C in the first 20’rounds. I just picked him in my dynasty!

    Now for a keeper question: 15 team keeper roto and where a fifth round is the first picks after four keeps (value 61-75). There is generally some nice names there. I’m in the back of the league with lots of time to play but I have been offered a 5th and 7th plus ERod for Arrieta. I want to get some return for him now before it’s too late but he should still have upside in Wins. What are your thoughts?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Sport:
      Nice man! His dynasty value is pretty solid I would say, surprised he was still available! And thanks for reading.

      If I understand what the Keeper rules are, even though you’re at the back of the pack, I think you can get more for Arrieta. Have you shopped around? Any other offers on the table?

      I do like ERod, but I just have a feeling even with the regression, he’s heading into a contract year and will buoy some of his value.

      Basically shop around, and if you have to, I would begrudgingly settle for that. But don’t jump to anything. (Find a Cubs fan!!! Hahaha)

  3. Josh says:
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    Forgot to mention Heyward

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Josh:
      See above, would probably slot JHey just after Perez

      • Lance

        Lance says:
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        @Lance:
        In the middle of re-ranking some guys, so this may change.

        Will comment back here if my top three of that core changes

        • Josh says:
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          @Lance:

          awesome thanks!

  4. Ollie says:
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    Picked him up in my 12 team H2H. Definitely have some mild excitement about the possibility of having a solid catcher as I’ve always been one to punt the position.

    Also, the Padres’ hitting coach dig was A++

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Ollie:
      I tend to punt to, I’m pretty excited to see what happens moving forward.

      We’re not looking at Gary Sanchez, but I’m gonna stick with him and see what happens. I like this mechanical change, don’t think the AAA was egregiously inflated, and think he’ll catch 130/year barring injuries.

      Just a lot of positives to be positive about!

  5. Tom says:
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    Drop Wieters for Hedges?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Lance: @Tom:
      I have Hedges one spot behind Wieters, but after you asked this question and I thought about it, I’m probably gonna take the upside in Hedges in roto 5×5.

      I’ll be making that switch tonight, you have inspired me haha

  6. Pousse-Pousse says:
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    Would you rather have Hedges or Brian McCann ROS (6×6 +OPS)?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Pousse-Pousse:
      I would take McCann!

      Have him ahead in both roto and points.

      Especially OPS, McCann is a 15% walk guy, can’t pass that up, unfortunately Hedges doesn’t walk too much.

  7. Rumham says:
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    Currently have Schwarber, Cervelli, d’Arnaud in a 5×5 10 tm 2 C league? Do I add Hedges for Cervelli or d’Arnaud, and how big of an upgrade would that be

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Rumham:
      I would take Hedges over Cervelli and barely over d’Arnaud (perennial health issues).

      I’ve been hearing Cervelli is healthy after playing last year with a hand/wrist problem, but I don’t care for a catcher who really only provides AVG. I like the hedge (pun intended) of d’Arnaud and his injury with Hedges.

      But I would ask though – what’s your bench size? I am usually against holding a third catcher, even in a 10 team league (usually 3-5 bench spots). Would definitely use that spot for another upside bat/arm on the wire.

      • Rumham says:
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        @Lance: 5. just a temporary measure when D’arnaud showed signs of life

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @Rumham:
          That’s fair, I would advise not holding a third catcher then, but that’s a personal preference.

          I would go Hedges Schwarber and cut d’Arnaud/Cervelli!

  8. IV says:
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    Just wanted to say nice write up!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @IV:
      Appreciate it man!

      Thanks for reading!

  9. Jeremy says:
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    If you had to choose one ROS in a points league: Hedges or Vogt? 1 pt per base for hits, 1 per R, RBI and BB, -.5 for K, and (for some reason) 2 for each guy thrown out stealing.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Jeremy:
      That +2 for thrown out is hilarious, I actually kind of like that honestly! Doesn’t really impact anything, but I feel like it could propel guys like Grandal/Sanchez up a bit, maybe like ~60 pts or so if I’m not mistaken??

      This format might lend itself to Vogt a little, but I’d say they come about even. Hedges more upside, Vogt higher floor.

      Gimmie the gamble on Vogt!!! I’m being a homer in the comments section today with the column’s posterboy haha

  10. jon says:
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    I have Hedges and then have Wilson Ramos and Tom Murphy on the DL

    should I just loose one of Ramos or Murphy and keep Hedges until the latter returns? or dump both and keep Hedges?

    its a keeper league but I never keep catchers.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      [email protected]jon:
      I gotta go Hedges here mainly because , barring injury, I think he’ll actually play more. Time tables on Ramos/Hedges are just so murky.

      I would cut either for Hedges, if you have a DL spot, hold one of them there.

      Cutting both implies you’d probably be picking up somebody else on top of Hedges correct? I would always like to know who that is before suggesting a move.

      • jon says:
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        @Lance:

        I was going to Keep one of Ramos and Murphy- leaning murphy, tell me if im wrong

        Abreu looks destined for DL so I would dump Ramos to stream a pitcher.

        I literally only added both ramos and muphy for the upside, then hedges happened lol

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @jon:
          I see what you’re saying now

          I’m fine with using that as a streaming spot and cutting the other C

  11. Mike in Busan says:
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    Putz that I am, I felt that Lucroy had dropped far enough to scoop him up (8th round in a 12-team league). Drop him for Hedges? Is Lucroy hurt, do you think, or just slumping?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Mike in Busan:
      I wouldn’t be too bummed about that decision man, 8th round in a 12 teamer is tolerable, not what I normally do, but it can be successful.

      No way I’m dropping Lucroy if I’m invested in him man, sorry. Hedges is just a top 12 catcher for me, lot of these other fringe guys I’m taking him over in the comments above is because of the upside and usual terrible-ness of the C position.

      Stick with Lucroy!

      • Mike in Busan says:
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        @Lance: yeah, that was my thinking, too. Just a bit miffed at my many slumpers so far. Seems from week to week in my H2H league, I can either hit or pitch, not both.

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @Mike in Busan:
          I feel you man, I’m the same way in my only H2H categories league. Trust the base you have if you like it, we’re only 4 weeks in.

          Team in that league has Ervin Santana, Eric Thames, Keuchel, and Judge.

          I’m happy to let him go 3-0 for now and breed a little overconfidence! Haha

  12. ryan says:
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    Have #1 waiver in a 12 team H2H OBP league.

    I don’t have a huge need at 3B but both Todd Frazier and Bregman have been dropped. Just value wise are either worth the #1 waiver?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @ryan:
      Yeah definitely, I think either could warrant the #1 claim, can’t imagine anybody higher is being dropped, but can’t predict that stuff I guess.

      I have Frazier ahead because of what I perceive his power floor to be. Walks at a 10%+ clip for the OBP addition too (as well as Bregman).

      I’d pull the trigger

  13. Nicky says:
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    Any preference between Broxton, Beltran, Grossman, and Domingo Santana?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Nicky:
      Not too strong, but all of those except for Grossman are really close for me (Gross lower).

      I’d go Santana/Beltran/Broxton. Can’t go wrong with any. Beltran probably higher floor, Broxton highest upside but not sure if those Ks are gonna come down this year.

  14. Jurickson BROfar says:
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    I am dropping Bregman for Hedges.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Jurickson BROfar:
      I would not support that move, in any format

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