Rymer Liriano missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John Surgery, but made a brief appearance in the Dominican Winter League and played often this spring. Watching him play it is clear his arm is not yet back to 100%, as all three times I saw him play he was out in left field rather than his optimal position of right. Before the surgery Liriano’s best tool was his cannon arm out in right but, while all reports are the arm will come back just as strong as ever, his other tools will have to carry him this season.
One tool that is back in full form is his power at the plate as Liriano showed the best current in-game power of anyone I saw on the back fields this spring. While facing Kansas City Royals lefty, John Lamb, Liriano hit a scorching line drive that appeared to still be rising as it blew by the left side of the batter’s eye 400 feet away in center field.
His bat is quick through the zone, his hips explode well through the ball, but batting average will never be his strong suit, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hit .260-.270 in the big leagues.
He is very athletic, playing the outfield with plus defense, and he currently displays above-average speed, but he will probably slow a bit as he adds weight to his frame. He displays good first reads in the outfield, so the loss in speed shouldn’t limit him too much defensively, but he was never going to be a center fielder either.
When it comes to defense, one could argue there is nobody better in all the minor leagues than Austin Hedges. I only saw Hedges once this spring, as he spent much of it in big league camp, but it was obvious from the beginning he is as good as advertised behind the plate. When watching most minor league catchers, and a lot of big league guys too, the glove can get very busy when receiving the ball. Whether a catcher jabs at the pitch or turns his wrist after receiving it to “frame” the pitch, the gloves move an awful lot. When Hedges catches a game, the glove not only stays put, but it has a softness to it when it does. He receives a 95+ MPH fastball with as much ease as a dad playing catch with his eight year old son.
At the plate there are still plenty of questions with Hedges, and I only saw a couple at-bats so I don’t have an extensive opinion of his approach. His swing looks decent, it is not as smooth as you would like, but he seems to be able to read the ball out of the pitchers hand decently, and there might be double digit home run potential there.
Both Liriano and Hedges will be everyday starters for the San Diego Padres as early as next season, and both could get late season looks in 2014. With position players like these two and the depth of pitching they have in their system, the Padres might not be far from becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers biggest competition in the NL West.