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.
**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.