Spring Training Position Previews: Corner Infielders
WEEK 3: CORNER INFIELDERS IN THE PIRATES ORGANIZATION
A flurry of offseason acquisitions, plus the return of an Indianapolis Indians staple in Matt Hague, offers a group of veteran corner infielders with the season rapidly approaching. The list includes Hague, the holder of several Victory Field Era records, World Series champions Travis Ishikawa and Brent Morel, and Chris McGuiness who has gotten off to a red-hot start in Spring Training.
Potential Indians Corner Infielders
Matt Hague has been selected in two MLB drafts, originally receiving a phone call from the Cleveland Indians in 2007 during his junior year at the University of Washington (11th round, 347th overall). One year later and after transferring to Oklahoma State University, Hague was drafted alongside OSU teammate former Indians shortstop Jordy Mercer by the Pittsburgh Pirates (ninth round, 264th overall).
Hague broke big league camp with the Pirates in 2012 and made his Major League debut that season on April 7. He spent most of 2012 with the Pirates and Indians, starting 14 of his 30 games in the majors at first base.
Following his cup of coffee in the Majors, Hague returned to the Tribe in 2013 where he collected 153 base knocks to lead the International League in hits for the second time in three seasons (also 2011). His impressive feat marked the first time a player has led the IL in hits in multiple seasons since 1986, and also helped Hague earn his second team MVP award (also 2011).
Hague’s most recent MVP season included starting all but three regular-season games, tying for the IL lead in doubles (37) and ranking sixth in on-base percentage (.378), walks (71) and total bases (218).
Hague has spent his entire career in the Pirates organization, suiting up five different affiliates. He has produced a combined .299 average (630-for-2106) with 127 doubles, 45 home runs and 297 RBI in 553 Minor League games in that span.
In 2002, the San Francisco Giants drafted Travis Ishikawa out of Hague’s rival high school, Federal Way (21st round, 637th overall). Ishikawa’s standout amateur career with Federal Way helped pave the way to a quick climb to the Majors with the Giants.
Ishikawa, a 2010 World Series champion with San Francisco, made his MLB debut on April 18, 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He later joined the big league Club for the majority of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and has also appeared in games for the Milwaukee Brewers (2012), Baltimore Orioles (2013) and New York Yankees (2013).
Ishikawa split the 2013 campaign between the Norfolk Tides (Baltimore Orioles) and the Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox). In 83 Minor League games, he combined to hit .290 (86-for-297) with 54 RBI and 46 runs.
Brent Morel was a third-round draft pick (2008, 86th overall) of the Chicago White Sox, being selected as a 26-year-old third baseman out of California Polytechnic State University
Morel made his MLB debut pinch-hitting for former White Sox right fielder Carlos Quentin in a loss to the Detroit Tigers on September 7, 2010. Morel joined Chicago for his first full season at the major league level in 2011, before later appearing in just a combined 47 MLB games in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The Pirates claimed Morel on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on February 24. Prior to joining the Bucs, Morel spent 2013 with the Charlotte Knights, leading the team in runs (55), doubles (30) and RBI (54) in 106 games.
The Boston Red Sox selected Chris McGuiness in the 13th round of the 2009 Draft (408th overall) out of the Citadel. McGuiness spent 2009 and part of 2010 in the Red Sox organization before joining the Texas Rangers system as part of the deal that sent catcher Jared Saltalamacchia to Boston at the Trade Deadline on July 31, 2010.
McGuiness debuted in the Majors on June 7, 2013 as the Rangers’ starting first baseman against Toronto. He produced six hits with one double in 10 games during his stint with Texas, and spent the remainder of the 2013 season with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, hitting .246 (89-for-362) with 41 extra-base hits in 104 games.
McGuiness was acquired by the Pirates this offseason in exchange for Miles Mikolas.
In the System
Among the large crop of talent at corner infield in the Pirates system, two players to watch are Justin Howard and the Pirates 2010 second-round draft pick (52nd overall) Stetson Allie.
At 22, Allie was ranked as the No. 23 prospect in the Pirates organization by Baseball America. He was originally drafted as a pitcher, but has since transitioned to a power-hitting first baseman. In 2013, he split the season between the West Virginia Power and the Bradenton Marauders, where he flashed an impressive prowess at the plate with 21 home runs and 34 doubles.
Howard was drafted in the 24th round of the 2010 Draft (717th overall) by the Pirates. He has quickly progressed through the organization, beginning with the Gulf Coast Rookie team in 2010, and most recently spending the 2013 season with the Double-A Altoona Curve. He concluded last year hitting at a .314 clip (89-for-283) in 77 Double-A games at first base.