Jason Cole catches up with the Padres' top prospect and shows him flashing his skills.
While in Arizona this spring, I caught up with Padres top prospect Austin Hedges to discuss the art of catching and his development as a player. The Southern California native was ranked the no. 1 prospect in the San Diego system and no. 19 in baseball by Baseball Prospectus this offseason. And in our recent look at the top glove tools, we named him the top defensive catcher in the minor leagues, citing his “tremendous footwork, a quick transfer from the glove to his throwing hand, a lightning-quick release and an arm that rated as one of the best in the minor leagues,” in addition to his excellent blocking, framing, and game-calling abilities.
Gyorko is splitting time between second and third base to begin the season, but will eventually move to the keystone full-time.
The situation: After hitting .328/.380/.588 with 24 home runs in 92 Triple-A games last season, Gyorko has little more to prove against minor-league pitching. The 24-year-old prospect has made the Padres out of camp and should see regular at-bats from the outset. Ultimately projecting as the club’s everyday second baseman, Gyorko provides more offensive upside than 2012 platoon partners Logan Forsythe and Alexi Amarista.
Background: A 2010 second-round pick out of West Virginia University, Gyorko has hit over .300 in each of his three professional seasons. He has clubbed his way through the minor leagues, hitting a cumulative .319/.385/.529 in 334 career games. Primarily a third baseman through college and the lower levels, Gyorko appeared in 47 games at second last summer and could remain there long-term. Coming into the 2013 season, Gyorko ranked fifth in the Padres farm system, and number 84 overall in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus.
We got a look at the Rangers' prospect-heavy intrasquad game in Surprise.
After minor-league camp’s first pitcher/catcher salvo and before the legitimate backfield games commence in mid-March, teams often schedule prospect-heavy intrasquad games to put eyes on the talent and get the players back in the groove of live action. On the morning of March 10th, the Rangers occupied fields 5 and 6 on the backfields in Surprise; two lower-level minor-league squads on one field, and two upper-minors squads on the other. For a prospect lover, this was like a team-specific Futures Game, only stripped of all the fanfare and pageantry. This is a barebones scouting experience and the notes will reflect that. Jason Cole saddled up to field 5 while I took a seat behind the plate at field 6, where my radar gun almost melted onto my flesh and my phone got so hot that it decided to commit suicide when I asked it to function. Also, Jorge Alfaro hit a home rune and I giggled like a child.
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From February 28th through March 3rd, the Rangers’ and Royals’ spring training facility in Surprise, AZ hosted the Coca-Cola Classic. It’s a round-robin event featuring four college programs—University of Arkansas, Arizona State, Gonzaga, and University of the Pacific—and several interesting draft-eligible talents. Dozens of decision makers were in attendance, both at Surprise Stadium and at games on the back fields to get early-season looks at top draft arms Ryne Stanek (Arkansas), Marco Gonzalez (Gonzaga), Trevor Williams (Arizona State), Colby Suggs (Arkansas) and Barrett Astin (Arkansas), as well as some interesting positional talent, including Razorbacks second baseman Dominic Ficociello.
Arizona State finished the weekend a perfect 4-0, while Arkansas, who entered the weekend ranked in the top five in multiple collegiate polls, dropped all four of their contests (two against ASU, and one each against Gonzaga and Pacific). Below, we highlight three performances of particular import for draft evaluators, and provide further scouting notes on various other draft talents, both present and future.