Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #5 – Alen Hanson

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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Michael De La Cruz, OF
19. JaCoby Jones, OF
18. Barrett Barnes, OF
17. Cody Dickson, LHP
16. Blake Taylor, LHP
15. Joely Rodriguez, LHP
14. Andrew Lambo, OF
13. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
12. Clay Holmes, RHP
11. Tony Sanchez, C
10. Harold Ramirez, OF
9. Luis Heredia, RHP
8. Josh Bell, OF
7. Reese McGuire, C
6. Nick Kingham, RHP

We continue the countdown with the number 5 prospect, Alen Hanson.

Despite the errors, Alen Hanson has the skills to stick at shortstop over the long-term.
Despite the errors, Alen Hanson has the skills to stick at shortstop over the long-term.

5. Alen Hanson, SS

Shortstop is one of the hardest positions to fill in baseball, especially with a player who can hit and play defense well. Alen Hanson’s hitting skills are what put him on the map as a prospect. His big offensive breakout in 2012 made him one of the top prospects in the game. But there has always been a question about his ability to stick at the shortstop position in the long-term.

The tools Hanson displayed this year at shortstop should erase any doubt that he is capable of playing the position long-term. He displayed a lot of range, capable of making plays deep in the hole between third and shortstop. There have been questions about his arm strength in the past. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he has enough strength to make the throw from short.

Hanson has great defensive skills, but he had 32 errors in 2013, after having 40 in 2012. The strange thing about his errors is that a lot of them came on routine plays. Hanson would make a web gem, then immediately follow it up by booting a routine grounder, or throwing in the dirt at first base. The reason for this is because he has the tendency to take a play off on the easier plays. That could be chalked up to his young age and a lack of maturity.

The bat didn’t show up as well in the stat line this year. Hanson slumped the first two weeks in Bradenton, then got back on track offensively. He also changed his approach, using his bunting skills more. Hanson has plus speed, which would allow him to bunt for a hit in one at-bat, then fake bunt and hit into a drawn in infield in the next at-bat. Infielders have to respect his speed, making it hard to guess what he is going to do.

It would be a good idea for Hanson to return to Double-A in 2014, possibly spending the entire season at the level. He needs some work against upper level pitching, and needs to mature his approach to maintain consistency on defense. He profiles as the long-term shortstop in Pittsburgh, as well as a speedy leadoff hitter with some pop in his bat.

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  • Hi Tim,

    I think a fair question to raise is what Hanson’s ranking would be if his glove won’t stick at the Major league level? Still Top 10?

  • While working as an usher for the West Virginia Power in 2012, I noticed Hanson’s work ethic being consistent with that of a nineteen year old. This was really apparent during infield practice and pre-game warmups…clearly activities he didn’t like as well as batting practice. A couple of months into the season, after getting a good bit of attention from the press, he began to try to do too much both at the plate and in the field. This approach contrasted significantly with that of Polonco’s, who at that time was pretty much under the press’s radar even though he played at a high level the whole year. Pirate fans can only hope that, with added maturity, Hanson is able to perform at a more consistent level as he progresses to the big club.

    • Jim…thanks for that ‘eye’ test review.

    • I appreciate the first hand – but I have coached too many HS and college kids to know that batting practice is fun, whereas fielding practice is too much like work. IMO, although Gregory Polanco is seen as the power hitter of the two, the stats of both in Lo A and Hi A would be slightly in favor of Hanson as the better extra base hitter. This kid and Polanco have an excellent understanding of the strike zone, they both use the whole field, and both have excellent OB numbers. In the future I think we will see Hanson leading off, followed by Polanco, ‘Cutch, Alvarez, Marte, and I hope that we can have Meadows close enough (AA/AAA) before Pedro joins the Yankees after the 2016 season.

  • CalipariFan506
    January 27, 2014 11:12 am

    The taking plays off worries me. No easier way to get the fans in Pittsburgh upset with an athlete than the occasional lack of focus.

    • If they can milk a couple years out of Mercer and let Hanson take his time it could work out quite nicely. Hanson was one of the 10 youngest players in A+ last year, making him one of the youngest in AA this year.

      AA again this year, AAA next year and up in mid ’16 could make for 6.5 years of Jimmy Rollins type SS play in the Burgh. Mercer could shift to 3B when Pedro leaves.

      • elquapo….agree.

      • I would rather see mercer at second or a platoon partner at second and backup shortstop. Our third base situation would be pretty sad if mercer can start there. Yea, he hits good for a ss, but not for a third baseman. Plus it’s not like you would be getting above average defense either.

      • How do Mercer and Hanson compare/contrast defensively? Does it make any sense to keep Mercer at SS and bring Hanson up at 2nd? Then you could bump Walker back to 3rd and have more range up the middle.

        • Right before Neil came to the majors, he played games at 3B, 2B, and 1B. They actually had him switch from C to 3B when he was in AA, without much obvious regard for Pedro Alvarez? Then the only position open was at 2B, and the rest is history. How fast Hanson develops will have a major bearing on moves. Alvarez is here until after 2016. If Hanson does well at AA, and moves to AAA and can hold his own at SS/2B, I can see a time in 2015 where we will have to make some room for him.

      • Exactly elg. He is still a kid for heaven’s sake.