Matt Hague sees a spike in power

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.

Ryan Palencer

Author: Ryan Palencer

Ryan joined Pirates Prospects as the Indianapolis Triple-A writer in 2014. Prior to joining Pirates Prospects, Ryan covered high school, college and professional sports in the Indianapolis area. For more updates throughout the season, follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpalencer.

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  • lonleylibertarian

    Looks like it might bee a good time for Gaby to come up with a sore hammy – he is batting under .200 with a ton of strikeouts and has an OPS below ,.500 for the last month. A month or so of the hit collector in the platoon and off the bench could be interesting

    • leowalter

      You might have a pretty good point there lonely. However, I’m afraid the old ” organizational bias ” factor could figure into that.

  • lonleylibertarian

    Given how few lefties the Bucs face it probably needs to be asked in the off season if they can or should carry Gaby and his $2.5-$3.0 Arb based contract – or would Hague be a cheaper way to go. He could also fill in at third now and then – although a quick look at his raw fielding stats do no inspire a lot of confidence in his defense.

    I know that org bias is a problem – and he has had opportunities in the past – but given the power increase it would seem worth giving him a shot – he could be another Pearce or Moss…

    20+ HR potential is not an easy thing to find these days – if you have not already you should take a look at Buster Olney’s great article on the decline in offense across MLB.

    • freddylang

      Have you seen Pearce’s numbers? He has been incredible after the Orioles released him then picked him back up two days later. 1.014 OPS in 157 AB. Pearce and Presley were always two pet favorites of mine back when the Pirates had less talent.

  • glassers

    I believe Matt is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2014 season . His major league future will be with another team .

  • Monsoon Harvard

    I am really getting fed up with Ike Davis’s lack of production. I realize Hague hits lefties better, but at least he’s hitting .262 with 9 homers and 41 RBI right now against righties which is more production than Ike Davis is giving. Granted it is against triple A pitching, but it is getting to the point that Ike Davis is just a wasted line-up spot anymore.
    Hague can hit major league pitching. I even think he would be more motivated just being back in the big leagues.

  • Sean Epstein

    Don’t be shocked if Hague gets Gabby’s job next year. Gabby stands to make close to 3 million in arbitration next year so I could see a non tende coming.

    • freddylang

      Yeah I could think of something better to do with 3 mil then give it to Gaby.

  • smurph

    I agree with the comments here. Sanchez was looking good vs. lefties for awhile, but lately both he and Ike have not gotten it done. Ideally Hague would be a September callup. Give him a few starts either at first or 3rd. See what he can do with major league pitching. 28 is still not old. I believe Lambo/Hague could be as effective as Davis/Sanchez have been. If Ike doesn’t do something the next 2 1/2 months, admit your mistake and send him packing.