The saying is “defense wins championships.”
That particular saying is usually saved for football or basketball, but for the most part, it is true in baseball as well.
It’s no secret the Padres are gunning for 2019 and beyond as far as trying to win a coveted championship. That doesn’t mean there can’t be pieces already in place to make that sort of move. There are plenty of players already wearing a Padre uniform who will be a part of that competitive window.
Hedges has turned into one of baseball’s top defensive catchers. The numbers do not lie. He is fourth in baseball among backstops in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) with 12. Only Sandy Leon, Yasmani Grandal, and Martin Maldonado have better numbers. Hedges ranks sixth in stolen base percentage, with at least 80 games caught this year. Pitch framing is also a huge part of Hedges’ game. According to StatCorner, he has a +81 Calls which means he has received 81 calls in favor of Padres pitchers this season. Only Grandal and Tyler Flowers have better numbers.
As far as straightforward numbers most people are familiar with, he has nailed 17 runners trying to steal, which is 10th in all of baseball. He also has turned six double plays, which is tied for fifth in the league. He leads the Padres with a 0.8 dWAR as well. Hedges turns 25 on Friday, so there is still a lot of time for him to develop as a big league catcher. He should be the starting catcher for the next great Padres team.
Margot has had his share of highlight catches. I was there in person during the 2016 All-Star Futures Game at Petco Park when Margot robbed a home run over the center field wall. Margot is second among Padres position players with +3 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). He is second only to Hedges with a 0.5 dWAR. Margot is also second on the team with an overall WAR of 1.3. He also leads the team in fielding percentage among players who have played 400 innings this year.
The Padres should be very encouraged by these two players. However, the team as a whole has the fourth-most errors in baseball, behind only the White Sox, Brewers, and Athletics. On the bright side, they are also fifth in double plays turned. There is some room to grow and some things to be excited about. Hunter Renfroe will never have Margot’s skill set, but he also has one of the strongest arm in the league and it shows. He is fourth in all of baseball with nine outfield assists.
The team still needs to evaluate Wil Myers at first base (-3 DRS this year) and of course their situation at shortstop is frustrating. Carlos Asuaje is turning into a solid middle infielder as he has an even DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) with a small sample size. If the team can at least get to the middle of the pack defensively next season, there should be more wins on the board.
Hedges and Margot will lead the way with their gloves in 2018 and beyond.