Up until a few years ago, Corey Hart was a dangerous hitter. From 2010-2012 he had a .279/.343/.514 line, averaging 29 home runs per season. To put that in perspective, an .857 OPS would have ranked 15th among 146 qualified hitters in baseball last year, and would have ranked second on the Pirates — ahead of Josh Harrison and behind Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates signed Hart for $2.5 M this off-season, and if they can get anything close to his former numbers, that amount will end up being the steal of the off-season. In fact, the deal has already received a lot of votes for the best off-season signing in the $3 M and under category of Jayson Stark’s recent article. But there’s a reason why Hart signed for only $2.5 M, despite the former numbers.
Hart missed all of 2013 with knee problems, and had surgery on both knees. He returned in 2014 with Seattle, playing a DH role, while also working at first base and the corner outfield spots. But the numbers were nowhere close to what he put up prior to his injuries. Hart had just a .590 OPS in 255 plate appearances, and just six homers. Thus, the reason why he was signed for just $2.5 M this off-season.
In order for the Pirates to get value for Hart, he needs to be healthy, especially with his knees. I asked Clint Hurdle how the Pirates felt about Hart’s knees, and Hurdle said that they were comfortable with his health, although he might not be able to play the outfield at the same volume as he did in the past. After that, I talked to Hart in a one-on-one interview that can be seen below.
There is definitely reason to be skeptical about whether Hart can rebound with the Pirates, especially after his struggles last season. If there’s one reason for optimism, it’s Hart’s comments about the difference between last year and this year. He told me that he was working last year to get the strength back in his knees. “This year I was able to work out the whole off-season and come in strong. I didn’t have to worry about any rehab stuff, so it was nice to just work out and get ready for the season.”
Hart showed off some nice power at the plate during batting practice yesterday, which can also be seen in the video below. Along with the knee issues, we discussed his potential role, and what led to his down numbers last year.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Is there even a guess of how good Hart could be?
Is .270 with 18 HR or better possible.
If so, should be order playoff tickets now?
As the supposed RH platoon for Pedro, will he even get up enough to hit 18 HRs?
First off, Tim I love what you have done with the site and I love the new videos, keep it up. Second, if Pedro were to go down for an extended period of time would Hart stand in long term or would they have him platoon with Lambo or another bench option?
Not speaking for Tim, but my guess is that it depends on Hart. If he is anywhere back near his old self, I would imagine he’d play more than Lambo. Otherwise, I would think Lambo would get the job.