In his fourth complete season at Triple-A, Matt Hague has officially moved to the veteran role. However, this season, Hague has seen some different success. He has been much improved in the power numbers.
Hague’s 12 home runs are tied with his best season at Triple-A. His minor league career high overall was the 15 that he hit in 2010 with Altoona in 581 at bats. So far in 2014, Hague has compiled only 272 at bats. He has also added 13 doubles and a triple this season, leading to an .832 OPS.
“I think that I am using my back side and my hips more,” Hague said. “I know in the past that I have been more handsy and letting my hands work. I have been holding my back side and letting my hands feel free. When I stay back, hit helps to do that.”
Along with the power numbers, Hague has also managed to keep his consistency overall at the dish. From May 11 to June 20, Hague reached base in 36-of-38 games.
“It is kind of the mindset of not wanting to give away any at bats,” Hague said. “Whenever I step in the batter’s box, I have the focus. I stay committed to my plan and let the rest take care of itself.”
Over the stretch, Hague had two five-game hit streaks, two six-game hit streaks, and a seven game hit streak. In addition, Hague has 13 two-hit games and four three-hit games over the 2014 campaign.
Along with the power, hitting in the middle of the order has allowed Hague to get more comfortable as well. Between Gregory Polanco and Chris Dickerson hitting in front of him most of the season, Hague has seen plenty of runners on base. In these situations, Hague said that he looks to work the middle of the field to get the runs across the plate.
Prior to May 11, Hague was hitting just .220 (18-for-82) with just two home runs. Hague credits a focus and commitment to his approach for the success since then.
“I’m pretty much trying to stay committed to my plan, execute my plan, and get a pitch that I can drive,” Hague said. “[My approach] really depends on the scouting report that we get. I stay committed to whatever [the opposing pitcher’s] best pitch is. I don’t want to cut myself short and I stay committed to driving the ball.”
Hague also lists his experience at Triple-A as part of his success as well at the plate.
“With the more at bats that I get here at Triple-A, I get more comfortable with the pitches,” Hague said. “It helps with getting more comfortable with executing a plan. I know before, my first year here, I had a plan, but was still generating outs. It’s more of a comfort thing.”
While he has gotten some time at first base and designated hitter, Hague has spent a majority of his time defensively this season at third base. While he has played third base at Indianapolis in the past, he was more often playing first. Hague said that he has gotten the opportunity to learn from a couple veterans of the position this season.
“It is going really well (at third base),” Hague said. “With (Brent) Morel hurt, I got a good amount of games out there. I think that getting consistent reps over there has helped me a lot as far as getting comfortable. I have really learned a lot from Morel and [hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo]. I have been trying to apply that to the game.”
Hague said that in the past, he had been fielding balls more two-handed. He said that fielding the ball one-handed this season has allowed him to get better hops in the field. Getting that better hop allows him to get in a better throwing position.
The biggest value Hague has is his ability to hit left-handers. He has a .950 OPS in 77 at-bats this season, and that lines up with his career numbers against lefties.
Being 28 years old, Hague appears to be organizational depth at the Triple-A level. However, with his consistency at the plate, he could still be a nice fill in for a few weeks if an injury were to occur at either corner infield position at the big league level, especially if the power numbers stay true. His best shot at reaching the majors would be if Gaby Sanchez goes down with an injury, leaving the right-handed platoon role at first base open.