Sleeper or Bust: Will Austin Hedges Turn The Corner In 2018?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There was some potential seen in Austin Hedges entering 2017, based solely on his performance at Triple-A the previous season (.326 with 21 HR over 334 PA).  While he did bring some of that power with him to San Diego, it would be hard to get excited about his final line:

387 At Bats
.214 Batting Average (83 Hits)
18 Home Runs
55 RBI
36 Runs
4 Stolen Bases
.262 On Base Percentage
.398 Slugging Percentage
.260 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously no one would complain about the power, as he proved that his ’16 breakout wasn’t solely due to playing in the Pacific Coast League.  The problem is that it wasn’t nearly enough to offset his miserable batting average.  So what exactly was the difference between his Triple-A and MLB performance?

 

Strikeouts

  • Triple-A – 15.3%
  • Majors – 29.3%

His 16.0% SwStr% and 37.7% O-Swing% were miserable numbers, and certainly support the elevated mark.  Considering he owned a 14.8% SwStr% while at Triple-A in ’16, it’s easy to call his impressive strikeout rate a pure aberration.

Hedges also didn’t show the potential to make consistent contact against any type of pitch in the Majors, given the following Whiff%

  • Hard – 13.00%
  • Breaking – 20.75%
  • Offspeed – 31.91%

Put it all together and it’s hard to expect anything but an elevated strikeout rate moving forward.

 

BABIP

  • Triple-A – .329
  • Majors – .260

In the Majors it appeared that he was selling out for power, with a 45.7% fly ball rate and 17.7% line drive rate.  Couple those marks with a 15.7% popup rate, a relative lack of speed and the wear and tear of catching, and it’s easy to envision a below average BABIP.  Could he improve a little bit?  Perhaps, but it’s impossible to think that he can replicate his Triple-A mark.

 

When you couple an elevated strikeout rate with a below average BABIP, looking at a poor batting average is a given.  While there is a little bit of pop, it’s hardly enough to compensate for just how bad he could be.  He’s nothing more than a last resort for those in two-catcher or NL-only formats.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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