Say what you will about Matt Hague’s future potential. Whether you think he’s a 4-A player, a strong bench option, a future average starter, or more, no one can deny that he’s having a great spring. Hague added to his impressive stat line today with his fifth homer of the Grapefruit League. He now has a .383/.383/.723 line in 47 at-bats this spring.

Side note: I’m surprised that no one has brought up that Hague hasn’t drawn a walk this spring. Or maybe I just missed it. But I definitely noticed it with Starling Marte and Josh Harrison.

I‘ve mentioned in the past why you can’t take a strong Spring Training performance seriously. It’s impressive what Hague has done this spring, but in the long run it means very little. Plenty of players have failed followed up a strong Spring Training with strong numbers in the majors. Last year we saw Lyle Overbay put up a season that was just as good as Hague’s. Yet Overbay was atrocious during the regular season.

Even as Hague continues to hit, my opinion stays the same. I don’t think that Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee are a long term answer for the Pirates. However, I also don’t think Hague is a long term answer, and I think in the short-term that the platoon gives the Pirates a better chance at success. The best role for Hague to start the year is getting everyday playing time in Triple-A, and arriving in the majors to take over and start when a spot opens up.

At the same time, you can’t ignore his spring. I wouldn’t start Hague because of his Spring Training, but I might shorten the leash on guys like Jones, McGehee, or even Alex Presley and Jose Tabata. If those guys start the season struggling, then Hague’s spring would get him up sooner in my book. If Jones and McGehee are struggling after a month, and Hague continues to hit, then it wouldn’t make sense to keep him down. It didn’t make much sense when the Pirates took that approach last year and stuck with Overbay.

So when should Hague get a shot? I think a lot of that should depend on the performance of other players, specifically those who can provide a bigger impact. But if one of those players struggles, or goes down with an injury, then it’s time to Free Matt Hague. If there’s one thing his Spring Training should have done, it’s making him the go-to guy should a starting position open up in Pittsburgh.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates tied the Rays 3-3 thanks to Matt Hague’s two-run homer. Game story here.

**Ryota Igarashi was traded to the Blue Jays today for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

**Previewing the weekend for the draft prospects.

**Prospect Notebook: Hunter Strickland had an efficient outing, and Nick Kingham hit 95 MPH again.

**Pirates Notebook: Hague continues his strong case to break camp with the Pirates.

**I’ll be on 93.7 The FAN at 11:40 AM with Bob Pompeani, discussing Pedro Alvarez.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. completely unrelated but how did Pedro hit yesterday?  I heard he was supposed to get multiple at bats.  Was he able to hit a few? 

  2. I like his potential more than GI Jones. Give him a shot!!! Sorry, but I have been on Hague’s bandwagon since AA. 

    • The thing is, it’s not Hague vs Jones. It’s Hague vs Jones/McGehee.

      Jones is a platoon player. So straight up, I’d take Hague. But since Jones is in a platoon, you can’t really say “I’d take Hague over Jones”. I wouldn’t, because Jones has already proven himself to be able to hit right handers well, which is his role in the platoon.

        • To date, Hague has shown much stronger numbers versus righties than against lefties.  As a RHB, that means he has a reverse split.  With Jones feeble against lefties, you can’t platoon him with Jones at this point.  But in general, his splits say he may be best as a platoon option.

          • I still gotta disagree with you Tim.  Theres something to be said for effort being rewarded.  One of the things around here that has, in the past, been a problem is players getting spots that didnt deserve them.  And if spring training means nothing then theres no reason to keep stats,  Hague has shown a willingness to do whatever the Pirates have wanted him to do to be a better player.  Rewarding him goes just beyond him, it sends a message throught the ORG that if you work hard and show results, they will be rewarded 

            I;d propose sending Pedro down, he clearly has issues.  Then moving Casey to 3rd and working Jones/Hague/RF in some kind of rotation.  Then giving starts to whomever produces the best.

            • Here’s my take on the “earning spots” argument. You’re basing this off of 50 at-bats in Spring Training. Why do those matter? Why are we only basing the decision on those at-bats?

              Jones has a career .838 OPS against right handers in 1010 major league at-bats. So why do we ignore what he’s done in the past three major league seasons, and just focus on the most recent numbers?

              It would be absurd to suggest this at any point in the season. No one would suggest making a change if a guy has two bad weeks in June. And that’s pretty much the equivalent of Spring Training. Overall it’s two weeks worth of numbers.

              I think you’re doing more to reward effort by focusing on what a player has done in his career, rather than focusing on a small sample of Spring numbers. I also think that a “what have you done for me lately” approach makes a player feel more unappreciated than sending a player down after 40-50 good at-bats in Spring Training.

  3. I like the comment about the walks.  Though he has shown a decent walk ratio in the past.  

    He HAS to realize that being a high OBPguy is his ticket.  If he can get to 70 BBs with only 50 Ks he’ll stick.  His defense is good and he has gap power.

    • No one has been right or wrong about anything. Less than 50 at-bats in Spring Training doesn’t make a career. My opinion about Hague has always been that he’s a James Loney/Casey Kotchman type of first baseman.

      • I agree that Hague is a Kotchman/Loney type of first baseman. I’d love to see him become a Grace/Olerud type. But if he hits like Kotchman did last year, we should all be quite pleased. (.306/.378/.422 with 10 HRs.)

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