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Pirates All 40: Can Austin Hedges’ Defense Outweigh Offensive Woes?



Pittsburgh Pirates- Austin Hedges

This is one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.

One of the most important roles on a baseball team has got to be the catcher. For months it seemed as though the Pittsburgh Pirates were bringing back Roberto Perez, but on Dec. 20, the Pirates changed that tune with the signing of Austin Hedges.

The 30-year-old veteran signed a one-year $5 million contract with Pittsburgh, which virtually sealed him as the starter heading into the 2023 season.

Hedges has been around the block a time or two, with eight years of major league experience under his belt.

Hedges was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Padres in 2011 out of JSerra Catholic High School and signed for a $3 million bonus on the Aug. 15 deadline.

Back in 2014, Hedges was regarded as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, with a ranking of 27th on Baseball America’s top 100 list.

In 2015, Hedges made his major league debut and notched his first career hit against the San Fransico Giants.

Not being known for his bat with a career of .189/.247/.331 slash line, Hedges would make waves with his defensive ability.

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In 2017, the California native had a DRS of 21 and placed third in framing runs with 10 (according to Baseball Savant). In 2019, some could argue that Hedges deserved the Gold Glove with 16 framing runs and a DRS of 20. Unfortunately for Hedges, J.T. Realmuto won the Gold Glove in 2019 with a DRS of 12 and an eight in framing runs.

Hedges is not going to blow you away with his bat, but his defensive prowess has always been there, with five out of his eight years at or near double digits in DRS (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022).

It’s probably been said before, but Hedges seems to be the perfect stop-gap for guys like Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez, and if one of those said prospects makes it to the majors in ’23, then all the better to have a mentor in Hedges.

One minor take from looking over Hedges’ career, he seems to land on the IL a good bit. Luckily they haven’t been too long, but it’s something to keep in mind as the ’23 season creeps ever so closer.

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