There have been two trends emerging this Spring with Matt Hague.
The first trend is that he can hit. Hague entered the day with a .429 average and two home runs so far this Spring. He’s collected hits in five of his nine games, and four of the games where he didn’t collect a hit, he saw two or fewer at-bats.
The second trend is that Hague can’t play third base. This isn’t news. The Pirates drafted him as a third baseman, but immediately moved him to first base during his first full season in Lynchburg. He started getting work again at the position during the fall instructional leagues, and carried that work over to the Spring.
Hague entered today’s game in the sixth inning as the replacement at third base. The move came back to haunt the Pirates in the ninth inning. He threw to second base, trying to start a double play, but threw wide, causing the game to go on. The error eventually cost the team two runs, putting the tying run on second and the go ahead run on base.
Defensively, Hague’s only shot of being a full-time player is at first base. Offensively, Hague’s bat doesn’t project to make an impact at first.
Some may question that last statement, pointing to Hague’s Spring numbers and his AAA numbers. The real test will be major league numbers.
It’s easy to point to Hague’s AAA numbers and compare them to major league numbers, pointing out where Hague’s AAA numbers would rank in the majors. The problem is that you can’t take this approach.
The odds of Hague jumping to the majors and carrying his AAA stats over are slim. Yes, Hague hit for a .309 average in AAA. But does that guarantee a .300 average in the majors? He had an .829 OPS in AAA. But will the OPS be above .800 in the majors? He hit 37 doubles and 12 homers in AAA. Do those numbers carry over to the majors?
On one side of this debate, Hague’s numbers could easily drop off in the majors, making him a bench option in the majors with poor defense at third base. On the other side of the debate, Hague has not only carried his numbers over to each new level, he’s actually slightly improved at each higher level. If he could get anywhere close to his AAA numbers, he’d be good enough to take over as the regular starter right now.
So what do you do with Hague? Do you send him to AAA to get everyday at-bats, and bring him up to start in the event that Garrett Jones or Casey McGehee struggle? Or do you put him on the bench in the majors, see how he hits, and slowly move him in to a starting role if he does well?
I think there are pros and cons to each. The latter sounds good, but realistically how much playing time will Hague get when one of McGehee or Jones will be ahead of him on the bench? As for the former, you give Hague more playing time, but you still don’t answer the question about what you have with him if you need him in the majors.
In either case, if Jones and McGehee struggle this year, that should be the time to free Matt Hague.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Phillies today 3-2. Recap here.
**A preview of the draft prospects this weekend, including a look at Kyle Zimmer.
**The Pirates have added a B-game to the schedule on Sunday, with Brad Lincoln making the start at Fort Myers.