The Pirates broke camp in spring training with Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones to platoon at first base, with Matt Hague making the team on the bench as another option. By the end of the season McGehee was traded for Chad Qualls, Hague was sent to the minors, and the Pirates may have found the power bat they were looking for to handle that position in Jones. The 31-year-old will be second time arbitration eligible this offseason. With Gaby Sanchez returning next year, Jones will likely get the primary playing time at first again, with Sanchez in the lineup against lefties.
Jones had a career-year with Pittsburgh, belting out highs in home runs (27) and runs scored (68). He also tied his career-high 86 RBIs (also in 2010) while finishing with a .274 average over 145 games with the Pirates. Jones bounced between right field (58 starts) and first base (65) with Pittsburgh. Jones will be arbitration eligible for a second time this offseason. His 27 long balls were ranked third on the team trailing only Andrew McCutchen (31) and Pedro Alvarez (30).
Sanchez was traded at the July 31st deadline from Miami along with minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a comp draft pick. The first baseman finished with a .241/.333/.420 line over 50 games with the Pirates while belting out four home runs (seven overall). Sanchez platooned at first with Jones when a left-hander was on the mound while serving as a bat off the bench. He will likely return to a similar role with Pittsburgh in 2013. He will be first time arb eligible.
Clement spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis where he hit .276/.340/.486 over 112 games in his first full season since undergoing season ending knee surgery during the 2010 season. Clement was added to the 40-man at the end of August and played in 23 games with Pittsburgh this season. The first baseman made just one start on August 26, where he went hitless in two at-bats against Milwaukee. He went 3-for-22 (.136 avg) with a double and an RBI overall off the bench.
Finally healthy, Clement had the opportunity to hit his way into the Pirates plans for 2013, but didn’t make the most of it. With Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez manning first base for next season, and prospects such as Matt Hague and Matt Curry in Triple-A, Clement’s future with the organization doesn’t look promising. There were also rumors in September that a Japanese team was interested in the 29-year-old.
Hague broke camp out of spring training after leading the team in average (.400) and tied in home runs (7), but his stay in the Majors was limited over the first several months. Hague played in five games to start the season on the West Coast road trip before being sent to Triple-A Indianapolis. He then returned in late May and got regular playing time at first base, but then was pushed to a bench role with the club. Hague made several trips back and forth between Pittsburgh and Indy over the next two months before having his final at-bat of the season with the Pirates on July 14.
Hague overall hit .229 over 30 games and was not recalled as a September callup when rosters expanded. The first baseman finished the Triple-A season with a .283/.332/.351 line over 91 games.
by Tim Williams
The Pirates don’t have a lot to work with at first base in the upper levels of the system. Hague had a great Spring Training, and got people excited about his potential by hitting for a lot of power. That power didn’t return during the regular season, and Hague went back to being a streaky hitter. The fact that he wasn’t brought up as a September callup doesn’t look good for his future with the team, as there would be no other reason to give so many pinch hit at-bats to Jeff Clement while keeping Hague in the minors.
Matt Curry should get the call to Triple-A next year, and will spend time over the off-season in the Arizona Fall League. Curry has some power potential and is a good hitter, although he also dealt with some inconsistent hitting. In 2012 he only had two months where he hit for over an .800 OPS. I’ve heard him compared to Mike Carp, which means he could make the majors and hit for some power, but he might not be a starter.
Alex Dickerson is in a similar situation as Curry. Dickerson has the potential to hit for power and hit for average. However, his 2012 was also inconsistent. He started slow with the bat in the first two months of the season. His defense improved over that time, which was a consolation prize. His hitting picked up in June, but his defense went the opposite direction. Offense is a bigger priority than defense, so it’s better to see the offense doing so well for Dickerson.
In all three cases, the hitters displayed a similar trend. In 2011, Hague started slow in Triple-A, went on a tear in June and July, then had a decentAugust. That was the same path Curry and Dickerson took this year. They both started slow, both had monster June and July numbers, and both had just decent months of August. Unfortunately that doesn’t point to a guaranteed
long-term solution at first base. All three guys have the potential to start in the majors, but they’re too streaky right now, and probably can’t be counted on in 2013.