Matt Hague had three hits last night against the Orioles, including a home run that traveled near 400 feet. Team that with his .302/.371/.442 career minor league triple-slash line, and you’re going to have a bunch of fans that want this guy in the major leagues as soon as possible.
However, I’m not so sure that that’s what we should be wishing for right now. Obviously the Pirates have had a lot of trouble finding a legitimate big league first basemen, and we are all growing tired of that. Derrek Lee’s two months gave us all a taste of what it would be like to have a big time bat in the lineup, but he chose not to return and now the Pirates are looking at a Garrett Jones – Casey McGehee platoon at first, which isn’t horrible but certainly leaves a lot to be desired.
So should the Pirates bring Hague to the big leagues when 2012 begins?
First of all we should note that Hague isn’t a typical prospect. He’s 26 years old already and was an 11th round draft pick. That doesn’t profile him as a serious prospect that can be an answer for the future at the big league level.
Second of all we have to put this “power bat” stuff to bed. Hague hit 12 home runs in 141 games last year. He hit 15 home runs in 135 games in 2010, and that’s his career high. While he’s still entering his “prime years”, he isn’t going to be a guy that hits more 20+ home runs for you. When a guy can’t hit more than 15 home runs in the minor leagues, you’re rarely going to see him add power when he comes to the major league level (although stranger things have certainly happened).
Hopefully that will calm some of those big expectations that people have for Hague, now we can get a little more positive.
The guy can flat out hit. He’s hit at every level and he hasn’t stopped. His lowest batting average ever was .293 (in 2009). He has three straight years of at least 30 doubles, and he added three triples last year to boot. He collected 165 total hits last year and drove in 75 runs. There is certainly something to be said for a guy with that reputation, and the Pirates would be foolish to not give him a chance at the big league level at some point. If Hague starts at AAA and continues to hit for the first month or two, I don’t think the Pirates have a choice but to find him a spot in the major leagues (unless everyone up there is hitting as well, which is very unlikely). The good news is that Hague can play some third base, so he could possibly replace Alvarez if he continues to be horrible. Also, he could fit the platoon role with Garrett Jones if McGehee has to move to third or continues hitting how he did in 2010.
Now the question is if Hague should go to the majors out of spring training? My answer is no, but there is a lot of spring games left to play. The Pirates are clearly taking Jones and McGehee to Pittsburgh, there’s no getting around that. If Alvarez is awful all spring, he could be a risk of not going to the majors, but I don’t think Hague’s defense is good enough at third to be an everyday major league guy. As I said before, I’d be okay with with Hague and Jones at first and McGehee at third, but that would mean Alvarez is in Indianapolis and the Pirates are basically screwed.
I’m really hoping that Alvarez plays well enough to keep his starting job in Pittsburgh, which sends Hague to Indy. I expect Hague to hit at that level again and get some playing time at first base this year. That said, I do not expect Hague to be anything more than an average big league player.
The Pirates have been starving for a big time bat to play first base for a long time, but I can regretfully tell you that Hague isn’t that guy.