The biggest theme surrounding the Pirates’ farm system this year has been injuries. Look through the top 20 prospects, and almost everyone has spent time on the disabled list this year. Most of the injuries aren’t long-term concerns. Most of the players who have been injured have performed well when healthy, while either maintaining their prospect status, or showing improvements. So it’s a bit ironic that one of the guys who hasn’t been injured, Alen Hanson, has seen a drop in his stock.
I’ve been looking at some of the upcoming ranking questions in preparation for the start of the 2015 Prospect Guide next month. One of the big questions is where Alen Hanson will rank. Specifically, the question is whether he will see a serious drop in value now that the Pirates have converted him from a shortstop to a second baseman.
During the mid-season rankings back in early June, we had Hanson ranked 6th in the system, just ahead of Josh Bell. Since that point, Bell has really taken off, doing a much better job against left-handed pitching. As a result, Bell has passed Hanson, and several other players (more on that in another article). Assuming no one dropped, that puts Hanson 7th. However, in the tiered rankings, there is a gray area here.
The mid-season rankings saw a drop in talent after the number seven spot, with the third tier representing guys who had good upside, but some questions or some undeveloped part of their game. So does Hanson still belong in the tier with Bell, Reese McGuire, and Nick Kingham? Or has his move to second base dropped him lower in the system?
Hanson has been rated highly in prospect rankings. We have been one of the few outlets that grades him high on the potential to play shortstop, noting that he has the skills but lacks consistency. I will add the disclaimer that our rankings don’t necessarily agree with what the Pirates’ actually do with their player development. My view on Hanson doesn’t really change because he’s now a second baseman. I still think he’s got the tools to have a chance at being a shortstop in the majors. Second base just seems like the easier approach.
You look around at the other rankings, and most of them had Hanson ranked high, but didn’t have him with a good chance at sticking at shortstop. The move to second base probably didn’t impact these rankings, and that’s largely because of Hanson’s bat.
John Dreker wrote today about how special Hanson has been at the plate this year. That offense is what could speed his path up to the majors, making him an option in 2015. He could be a starting second baseman at some point, with the bat to provide value at the position. To me, that keeps him in the top group with the top six prospects, although still falling at the end of the list behind the other guys.
The upside with Hanson at the plate would be a top of the order hitter with some power and a lot of speed. The encouraging thing about his season is that he’s showing improvements in the OBP category. Hanson had a .321 OBP in the first half. He had a .357 OBP in July, and a .366 OBP so far in August. He has also been hitting for average and power in those months, looking like he’s starting to master the Double-A level while getting closer to his upside. He might have taken a hit in value by moving to second base, but any drop in defensive value would have been made up by the improved offense lately, and the increased possibility that he could be a starter in the majors.
Links and Notes
**The 2014 Prospect Guide is on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The paperback version has dropped to $14.99 plus shipping. We currently only have one case of books remaining, and the offer is only valid while the books are in stock. There is also an eBook version available for $9.99. The 2013 Prospect Guide is on clearance for $1.
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.