Getting DFA’d at the right moment can land you in the MLB.
- Rating: 1.97
- Age: 28
- 2021 Stats: 22 PA, .111/.273/.111 = .384 OPS, 10 OPS+, -0.1 bWAR
- 2021 Earnings: $67,474 (per Spotrac)
- 2022 Status: free agent
We could have seen Jake Hager already in 2011 in Arizona. The then 18 year old Nevada born short stop had a commitment with Arizona State but opted to sign with Tampa Bay for an almost $1MM signing bonus as the Rays selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft with the 32nd pick.
Back then it was apparently a bit of a surprise the Rays took him that high as he was rather graded as more of an utility type player. In 2013 he was ranked #12 by Fangraphs, four years and a knee injury later, that cost him the entire 2015 season, he was still ranked top 20 but the question marks about his bat were real and the 2011 expectations of having a floor as some type of an utility player were probably spot on.
The expectations some prospect watchers had was probably due to his relative young age, because his performances never lived up to what could be expected of a top 20 prospect: a fringe bat, a below average on-base percentage except for 1.5 seasons and hardly any pop. Including this season, over 9 years Jake Hager has a lifetime .257/.312/.384 slash line in the minor leagues.
So Jake Hager actually started the 2021 season in New York. That was where he also made his debut on May 15. 8 PA and 5 games later he was designated for assignment. Then things went fast for Hager: he was claimed by the Brewers and subsequently DFA’d in June. The Mariners claimed him at that moment but designated Hager themselves in July.
That is when the Snakes bit immediately.
I hear you: you ask “why”? That answer was given in Jack Sommer’s preview of game #104 against the LA Dodgers: the D-Backs had 5 COVID-related cases for the game and needed some bats and pitching for additional depth. Hager was probably the right man at the right time available and was thus claimed from the Mariners and activated for the D-Backs’ game at the very same day.
Hager would make his D-Backs debut a day later (I am gonna pass on mentioning the opponent and the result). In total he would get 5 starts in the first 6 games he played before being optioned to Reno. A couple of days later the team recalled Hager and he’d get a couple more at bats as a pinch hitter.
Jake Hager had 14 strike outs in 30 plate appearances, but also got his first two RBI of his career in Sedona red. Few things to cheer about and a lot to cry about…sounds like the D-Backs themselves.
End August Hager was optioned back to Reno again, finally got outrighted, and after the season ended in Reno he was let go on a free transfer on November 7.
I don’t see much future for Jake Hager in pro baseball. Because of his age he might still be able to get a minor league contract somewhere with an invite to Spring Training, but because of the lifetime below-average bat I think it is more likely he ends up in an independent baseball league. Maybe a good performance there can catapult him back into the minor leagues and a stint in the MLB.