By John Perrotto
The Pirates have called upon their Class AAA Indianapolis farm club three times in less than a week for help in an attempt to bolster their feeble offense.
Outfielder Alex Presley was recalled Monday and is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night when the Pirates open a three-game interleague series at Toronto. That comes after infielder Chase d’Arnaud joined the Pirates last Friday from Indianapolis and catcher Eric Fryer followed a day later.
So that leaves the question of whether there are any other hitters left at Indianapolis that haven’t been with the Pirates yet who may be able to help. Surprisingly, there is somebody and it is a player who has gone virtually unnoticed throughout his time in the organization until the past few days.
He is first baseman Matt Hague, who is quietly having a solid season for the Indians as he is hitting .319 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 77 games and 307 plate appearances along with a .369 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage. Most impressive for a hitter with decent power is that Hague has struck out just 32 times.
Hague has been particularly hot in recent days, going 20-for-40 (.500) six doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs in his last 10 games. Baseball America ranked him No. 3on its weekly Prospects Hot Sheet last Friday.
Hague, though, was rated as just the Pirates’ 29th-best prospect coming into this season by Baseball America in its 2011 Prospect Handbook.
The Pirates selected the right-handed hitting Hague in the ninth round of the 2008 draft from Oklahoma State after he spent his first three collegiate seasons at Washington. He was drafted as a third baseman but a lack of range forced a move across the diamond where he has developed the reputation of being an outstanding defensive first baseman despite making 12 errors this season.
Hague also has an above-average arm, which makes him a potential candidate to play right field, especially at PNC Park where there is less ground to cover than left field.
Hague’s biggest drawback is he lacks the home run power normally associated with a first baseman as his career single-season high as a professional is the 15 he hit last year at Class AA Altoona. He also turns 26 in August, which gives him a lower ceiling than most prospects.
Ironically, one scout who covers the Pirates’ organization called Hague “a right-handed Lyle Overbay.” The scout was referring to the Pirates left-handed hitting first baseman who has hit just six home runs this season.
However, another scout who covers the Pirates feels it could not hurt to give Hague a shot in the major-league lineup since they are 12th in the National League and 22nd in the major leagues in runs scored with an average of just 3.77a game.
“He gives you a couple professional at-bat every time up and I think he would hold his own in the major leagues,” the scout said. “He definitely wouldn’t be overwhelmed.”