The New York Mets signed longtime Triple-A player Jake Hager to a minor league deal. Does he have a pathway to the Mets roster in 2021?
The New York Mets do not have the best farm system in the major leagues. Bleacher Report ranked the Mets 27th out of all 30 MLB teams following the 2020 MLB Draft. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that they are looking to rectify that under Steve Cohen’s leadership.
To improve the team’s minor league talent pipeline, the Mets need to examine their current prospects and what place they have in the organization going forward. One of these players is Jake Hager, a 27-year-old infielder from Henderson, Nevada.
Nine years ago, Hager was a highly-touted prospect. As a result, he was taken in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. Forgoing an opportunity to play collegiate baseball for Arizona State, Hager instead chose to make his professional debut with the Princeton Rays. He spent the whole season there, showcasing his offensive potential over the course of 47 games. He batted .269 with four home runs and 17 RBI.
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After bouncing around with numerous minor league teams, Hager posted his best minor league season in 2018. Splitting time with the Biloxi Shuckers and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Hager contributed a .284/.348/.472 batting line with 26 doubles, 11 home runs, and 51 RBI in 97 games.
Although his numbers declined when he was promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs, Hager made a strong case that he could potentially make the jump to the Major Leagues provided he show more offensive potential at the Triple-A level.
Hager also profiles as the new, modern era infielder. While his main position is shortstop, he has also served time at first and second base. As recently as 2019, Hager has also taken reps in left field to further increase his versatility and value.
Minor league players are never on an interminable timeline. At some point during their minor league career, they need to show the organization that owns their rights that they are worthy of keeping around and scaling the minor league ladder.
Hager is currently stuck between a rock and a hard place: He has displayed a capable glove and a good enough bat to warrant keeping him around in the minors, but his offense has stabilized at a level that is just below the expectations teams have for infielders. In other words, Hager is in minor league purgatory, and his exit route to the MLB is narrowing.
As we have seen throughout this offseason, new Mets owner Steve Cohen is showing a renewed interest in not only expanding payroll and spending money but also investing in talent at the lower-level. By extending Hager a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training, Cohen believes that Hager has something to offer the Mets.
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The Mets infield is already looking crowded even after Cano’s suspension. As a result, Hager’s best bet may be to play well in Spring Training and hope another team comes calling for him.