Coming into the 2012 season, Alen Hanson was an under-the-radar prospect in the Pirates’ system. To anyone reading this right now, you’re probably aware that Alen Hanson’s has had a huge breakout season to the tune of .315/.380/.550 (930 OPS) with a power-speed blend of 16 HR’s and 30 SB’s (out of 46 attempts, though). His defense has been spotty, resulting in 36 errors, and has covered the gamut from throws to footwork to hands. However, his flow of errors has slowed down somewhat in recent weeks compared to the early part of the season.
Hanson is starting to get the national recognition from his fantastic season. In their recent mid-season Top 50, Baseball America rated Hanson number #40. John Sickels was a little less sanguine and put Hanson at #77 (listing his as a 2B, even though he has played SS nearly every game this year). But the moral of the story is that Alen Hanson will be in every major prospecting outlets’ Top 100.
How does Hanson’s age-19 season compare to other recent highly ranked shortstops? Here are the stats for certain players from Baseball America’s Top 100 coming into this season and what they are doing at their current ages:
Jurickson Profar (#7 pre-season, #2 current) — Profar is sort of in a class by himself because he is only 19 this year and already excelling in Double A. His line of .281/.357/.464 (821 OPS, 13 HR, 14 SB) is stunning for a 19 year old that will see major league action in 2013 with the Rangers. Profar was in Low A last year and was skipped completely over High A to Double A this year.
Manny Machado (#11 pre-season, #9 current) — Machado was a “young” HS draftee in 2010, so 2012 is also only his age-19 season. Like Profar, he is also in Double A and he is also putting up very solid numbers at the level. Machado’s line is .265/.347/.427 (774 OPS, 10 HR, 13 SB). There is some talk that Machado will get too thick for SS and may move to 3B in the future, but right now he is doing well.
Francisco Lindor (#37 pre-season, #14 current) — Like Machado, Lindor was a young 17 year old when drafted, so his full season debut in Low A in 2012 is as an 18 year old and not a good comparison here. (For what it’s worth, he has a 722 OPS, 5 HR, 23 SB season).
Xander Bogaerts (#58 pre-season, #31 current) –Bogaerts is 19 in 2012 and in the High A Carolina League. His season to date is .303/.380/.504 (884 OPS, 15 HR, 4 SB). Like Machado, he is also expected to move off of SS in the future.
Nick Franklin (#77 pre-season, #35 current) — I like Franklin as a bellweather for Hanson, because there were also many doubts about Franklin’s ability to stay at SS. To date, his perceived lack of range and arm have not hindered him. As a 19 year old back in 2010, Franklin was in the Low A Midwest League and put up a .281/.351/.485 (837 OPS, 23 HR, 25 SB) line. He had an injury-plagued 2011, but has rebounded nicely in 2012 as a 21-year old splitting time between AA and AAA. His combined line for the year is .288/.360/.461 (821 OPS, 8 HR, 12 SB).
Other shortstops on the Baseball America Pre-Season Top 100 list include players like Hak-Ju Lee, Andrelton Simmons, and Jean Segura. None of these three have exhibited (or project to exhibit) the type of power that Hanson has generated in 2012. These three are more speed-based offensive threats, rather than power-speed blends.
Obviously, all Pirate fans would love for Alen Hanson to be aggressively promoted like the Rangers did Profar (and continue to thrive like Profar), but a more realistic approach is the level-by-level one. If Hanson at age 21 can put up Nick Franklin’s type of line while playing a reasonably competent SS, we should all be thrilled.