First Pitch: Why Matt Hague Should Start in Triple-A

From the looks of things, the battle for the final two bench spots will come down to three players: Yamaico Navarro, Josh Harrison, and Matt Hague. If I’m making the decision, Navarro and Harrison get the call.

First of all, Navarro and Harrison are better off the bench, considering the makeup of the current team. Both can play second, short, and third. Harrison has also played some corner outfield in the past. Hague can only play first and third, and his third base is far behind the level of Harrison and Navarro.

That means he’s primarily a first baseman, and considering the roster has Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee platooning at first base, there probably wouldn’t be much of an opportunity for Hague.

Then you’ve got the contingency plans for the major league spots. If the platoon of Jones and McGehee fails, Hague is the primary backup plan. If something happens with Clint Barmes, the Pirates could go with Navarro or Harrison. If those players aren’t fresh, the Pirates could go to Jordy Mercer or Chase d’Arnaud, who would be playing every day in Indianapolis. The Pirates have options to back up their middle infield spots.

Since Hague is the only option to back up first base, it would be better to keep him fresh. As a bench player he would be a pinch hitter, the number three first baseman, and the third best defensive third baseman on the roster. If you send him down to Triple-A, he gets everyday playing time, and is fresh if you need him to take over the starting first base role.

I think Hague has a major league future. I’ve said for years that he could be a James Loney or Casey Kotchman type first baseman. I just think that the platoon of Jones and McGehee has a chance to be better. If they aren’t better, I’d rather have Hague fresh off every day playing time, rather than taking over as the starter after getting only a handful of at-bats each week off the bench.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 4-1 to the Orioles. Game recap here.

**The utility battle is heating up over the final week.

**The transcript of my weekly chat.

**A rundown of the draft prospects over the last week.

**Prospect Notebook: Taking a look at Andrew Lambo’s fall from top prospect status, and Justin Howard’s off-season work.

**Pirates Notebook: Looking at the bullpen battles. Also, Juan Cruz contract details.

**ESPN continued their top 500 baseball players with numbers 201-250. Neil Walker came in at 248. The key players who haven’t been mentioned are: Andrew McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan, and James McDonald.

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About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • Kevin

    I agree with this.  I’d like to see Hague get his shot but right now isn’t the time.  Not because he isn’t deserving but because other issues need sorted out, while those other issues are being sorted out it’s best for him to be playing every day in AAA.

  • Edmund

    The two most impressive hitters in Bradenton have been Marte and Hague. What a shame to see them both in AAA when the Bucs are so desperate for offense.

  • piratemike

    Does Jones really warrant a job even it’s only a platoon? He is almost as big a hole in the lineup as Alvarez.

    • John Lease

       When Jones hits under .200, you’ll have a point.  That hasn’t happened yet.

      • sstauffer5

        UPDATE – 3Ks and an error

      • piratemike

        he’s trying.

  • sstauffer5

    2 more Ks and another error for Alvarez today.  He did manage to get a hit.  By all means lets send Hague down.  He’s only proven he can hit at any level.  It is – after all – about performance and accountability

    • white angus

      alvarez hit at every minor league level too.  heck, just look at Ronny Cedeno’s AAA numbers.

  • sstauffer5

    …and are we ABSOLUTELY sure anymore who has the bigger upside.  Seems likely Billy Bean would be laughing at us right now.  Nothing more important that absence of outs – especially strike outs.

  • ScottTid

    I agree with Hague starting in AAA if Pedro is on the 25-man to start the season (which appears like a done deal). If/when (and I hope he doesn’t) Pedro struggles and the FO needs to make a decision on him, then I think the Pirates can move McGehee to 3rd, bring up Hague to platoon with Jones at 1st. Hague would get more AB’s that way and would not rot on the bench. I do think it’s a shame that he has done everything the club wanted from him (and more) this spring and Pedro has done little to earn his spot, but it is the way it is at this point. I think Navarro and Harrison off the bench are good options.

  • Bob