In a well deserved promotion, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins announced today that popular Buffalo Bisons hitting coach Matt Hague will be an assistant hitting coach on the MLB staff for the 2024 Toronto Blue Jays.
After the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him in the 9th round in 2008, Hague played ten seasons in the minors with three call-ups to ‘The Show’, including ten games in 2015 with the Blue Jays. He also spent the 2016 season with the Hanshin Tigers in Nippon Professional Baseball. For his minor league career, he slashed .298/.374/.427/.801 with 90 home runs and 619 RBI.
In probably his best season professionally, the former first baseman hit. .309 with 12 HRs and 75 RBIs in 2011 in Triple-A with the Indianapolis Indians of the International League, and was added to the Pirates' 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He then made the Pirates’ Opening Day roster in 2012.
In 2014, he was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays and assigned to the Buffalo Bisons. He played in 149 games over 2014-2015 for Buffalo, hitting .342 with 12 HRs and 102 RBI, and earned a September call-up to Toronto in 2015.
In fact, his 2015 season for Buffalo earned him the International League MVP award after he led the league in average (.338), hits (177) and on-base percentage (.416). According to the Buffalo News, “His average and hit total were both second in the franchise's modern era while the OBP was a then-franchise mark.” Last year, he was enshrined in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.
The now 38-year old was born in Bellevue, Washington, but has Canada ties as his dad was born in Toronto. After finishing his playing career in 2018, he joined the Blue Jays coaching staff at Dunedin in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to COVID. He then spent 2021 and 2022 as the hitting coach at Double-A New Hampshire before being promoted to be Casey Candaele’s hitting coach for Buffalo in 2023.
The Fisher Cats had the second highest team batting average in the Double-A Eastern League in 2021 at .259, while the Bisons hit .274 last year under Hague’s tutelage, tied for second in the International League, and up from only .246 in 2022. Importantly, he played a role in helping the “Buffalo Boys” - Davis Schneider, Spencer Horwitz and Ernie Clement - all have success at the big league level after their call-ups in 2023.
Hague explains some of the hitting philosophy that helped these players below. Note Schneider saw his minor league batting average improve from .253 in 2022 to .275 in 2023. Horwitz went from .275 to .337, while Clement jumped from .238 to .348. Number two prospect Orelvis Martinez saw his average this year jump from .226 in New Hampshire to .263 after his call-up to Buffalo in July.
So congratulations to Matt Hague on his promotion to the big league staff for 2024. He’ll know many of the younger Blue Jays hitters well given he’s played a role as a swing consultant for the Toronto minor-league system for the past few years; and, if he can help players like Davis Schneider continue to improve like he did in 2023, we might just see a more potent offence in 2024.