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Austin Hedges (C, SD) - Week 19 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in Two-Catcher Leagues

OWNED IN: 11% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Though Austin Hedges finished 2017 with a sub-par .660 OPS, he did manage to wrack up 18 total HR and four stolen bases, both of which are encouraging for a 25-year old catcher playing his home games in Petco Park. This year, thanks to a recent two week stretch of four homers and a slash of .323/.389/.742 through 31 AB, he is now well on his way to the best season of his professional career in a Padres uniform. Hedges started the season with mediocre batted ball contact in April, producing more soft contact (31.1%) than hard contact (26.7%). Though when he returned to big league play in June, he was able to string together two months of 40% and 42% hard contact as well as soft contact of 10% and 18% through the end of July. He also got off to yet another excellent start in August with hard contact of 66.7% and with no soft contact at all in his limited sample for the month. This powered Hedges to a season high ISO (by a margin of .111) of .231 for a complete month in July, and helped cement his place atop the Padres catching depth chart above A.J. Ellis.

Though Austin Hedges still strikes out a ton at 30.2%, he has been taking walks at improved frequency for 2018 with a rate of 7.3%, and he sports ideal power-hitting peripherals of 46.8% for a pull rate and a GB/FB ratio of 0.85 off of 43.6% fly balls. Though this proclivity for frequent flyers is helpful for sending balls yard, it does explain his drastic OPS splits of .647 at home and .822 with five dingers on the road in an equal number of AB (82 AB each). He has been making solid contact on batted balls and has made significant improvements to his all-around offensive game lately that remind us that he was at one point one of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball.

Though he has only stolen one base this season, his ability to swipe bags has been demonstrated with season steal totals as high as 14 in the minors, and this skill set could indicate Hedges to be a J.T. Realmuto type asset down the road. He is a prime candidate for Fantasy Baseball Managers in two-catcher leagues now, and could be a whole lot more next year if he continues to make strides with the lumber.

Check out RotoBaller's entire fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and sleepers list, updated daily!