First Pitch: How Has the Move to Second Base Impacted Alen Hanson’s Prospect Status?

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.

**Prospect Watch: Late Round Draft Pick Putting Up Strong Numbers in Jamestown

**Wirfin Obispo Clears Waivers, Outrighted to Indianapolis

**Minor Moves: Busy Day For Bristol and Indianapolis Roster Moves, DSL Player Released

**What Has Led to Adrian Sampson’s Breakout Season?

**Stolmy Pimentel Begins His Minor League Rehab Assignment Tonight

**Gage Hinsz Makes First Start as a Pro

**Morning Report: Not Many Players Do What Alen Hanson Does

  • NMR…I reacted poorly to ‘your beat it to a pulp’ reply to me (I deserved the ‘cookie’ one) and things escalated from there. I didn’t feel I was ‘beating it to a pulp’, but that is no excuse for the anger in posts below. Sorry for my anger….not sure why I went off….

    I just felt I had to say this to you.

    Foo

    • Not even necessary, but thanks. You’re one of the good guys, Foo.

      How would you have the organization handle Hanson next year? We can certainly agree that there needs to be a change in behavior in order to unlock his potential. Hold him back in AA to send a message? Bring in a special adviser, a la Manny Ramirez with Javy Baez? Hope he’s just as loony as we were at 21 and he’ll eventually grow out of it?

      • Leefoo Rug Bug
        August 22, 2014 2:40 pm

        My opinion was to get him up to the bigs and let him learn from MLB professionals and maybe that would help him grow up.

        But, it didn’t work with Tabby, so there’s that.

        • Wow, thinking outside the box. I like it. Would be a neat experiment, for sure.

        • Neither of the two players you mention, particularly Cedeno, had the offensive upside Hanson has.

  • Jacoby Jones has also passed Hanson. Who is better at playing shortstop JayHay or Hanson?

    • Passed Hanson as an overall prospect? Not. Even. Close.

      • Agreed, Jones isn’t close to Hanson as a prospect. Heck, Jones is even older than Hanson and two levels behind him.

    • I’m not going to dignify this with a response, but I’m a hypocrite.

    • Hanson has far more range,but not Harrison’s arm.

      • You could talk me into it simply being a case of rust from playing a lot of outfield innings, but I haven’t been at all impressed with Harrison’s hands. He’s had three grounders deflect off his glove side since the All Star break that would’ve been easy errors on the road.

        • I hope you don’t think I was endorsing Harrison as a SS NMR. I wasn’t. If Barmes wouldn’t have been out he would never have seen that position. But I don’t think it would be fair of me to slag him either. Josh is what he is : a pretty fair utility man, but a Zobrist he isn’t.

          • Ha, I wouldn’t insult you like that.

            If anything I was alluding to the possibility of him manning 3B over a full season. I don’t think he’d be a disaster defensively, but I also don’t think he’d be more than average.

            • I would agree with you on that. But,the way things have gone at 3d this season NMR, I would happily settle for a league average player there next year ! I did watch him play there his season in AA, and he was just about what we are talking about. Way above disaster level though.

  • I have disagreed all along. In my opinion, he doesn’t have the arm strength to play SS at the Major League level. If he does, he never displayed it while playing SS in Altoona.

    • I certainly trust your opinion and it seems like a lot of scouts agree.

      Jordy Mercer has changed my perception of what a major league shortstop arm looks like. I don’t believe there’s another regular SS in the league with a weaker arm, yet he’s shown this year that if – IF – the rest of your game is clean, even a weak arm can convert a high percentage of opportunities. Hanson seems to have his arm graded out in the 4+/5 range pretty consistently, which is similar to Mercer if I remember correctly.

      Hanson’s biggest issue is that the rest of his game is obviously far, far from clean, but it’ll be fun to see him take off if things click.

      • NMR…the folks on the PBC Asylum will tell you that I was long a Mercer fan even though most doubted him. He was hard working and was committed to making it. He took what talent he had and turned himself into a good SS.

        • Want a cookie?

          • NMR…I have no idea what your problem is with me, but all I am doing is offering an opinion, just like you.

            I have no idea what I ever did or said to you.

            However, if you feel that way about me for some reason, I will no longer comment on your posts.

          • My comment about Mercer was meant more about his attitude than my ‘touting’ him. That came out wrong…my bad. I wasn’t really bragging….

            I will now beat myself with my old slide rule.

            However, if you still have that cookie…..?

      • NMR : the bad news is Mercer is the one player I have used to judge Hanson’s arm strength ! You see what I mean ?

  • Level Age BB% K% HR/FB% ISO
    AA 21 5.8 16.8 8.3 .164
    AA 22 3.8 17.5 12.9 .168

    You all know this game…one line belongs to Alen Hanson, the other Starling Marte.

    • One belongs to a hard working OFer and one to an immature, undisciplined infielder.

      • You’re gonna beat this horse to a pulp, aren’t you?

        • Well, you seem to be doing your part in pulping…:)

          Besides,someone has to be the voice of reason. Everyone seems to have him anointed as the next great thing. I am just presenting a counterpoint to your lovefest. 🙂 🙂

          I hope I am wrong, but attitude has as much bearing on a professional’s career as talent (btw, see my comments above on Mercer for what attitude does for a career).

          • Foo, please take a break from patting yourself on the back to notice that I have very, very real concerns that Hanson will ever put the defense together enough to find a spot on a big league diamond.

            However, I don’t feel the need to interject that opinion into every comment. It is possible for reasonable people to discuss multiple aspects of a prospect’s game.

            • NMR….I am hardly patting myself on the back. And, I see nothing in your original post about you having real concerns.

              But, as I noted above, if you have problems with me (and I have no idea why you do), I will refrain from commenting on your posts, esp ones where I disagree with your opinions.

              Life is too short.

              • Not at all, Foo. You’re a character, and characters make the world more fun.

                But if you’re going to spout off about being a “voice of reason” in our “lovefest”, be prepared to take a few shots back.

                • “However, I don’t feel the need to interject that opinion into every comment.”

                  Yet, you’re allowed to inject YOUR opinion into every commetn?

                  • Good lord, man. Know when to drop it.

                    There are exact zero people who give a crap about reading this bickering, so unless you have an actual baseball contribution to the conversation, please stop responding to me.

          • Lee, I agree with you about Hansen’s attitude.

            The problem with one-trick ponies, aka sabermatricians, everyone becomes an expert.

            You wonder how MLB teams functioned without saber metrics.

        • NMR…..since we’re comparing players….look and see what Jose Tabata did as a 20 & 21 year old in AA and see how attitude destroyed HIS career.

          • Tabata never showed any power to speak of while in AA. Line drives,yes,but over the fence power ? Never. They were wishing on a star.

        • Lee is the same guy who told us ad nauseum that Cole was not very good.

          • Leo has been right about every prospect that’s made it to the show from Altoona. Just ask him

      • You also could say that Marte,while hard working,is an immature man when it comes to running the bases,and while blessed with great physical ability, doesn’t always show the best judgement while playing defense. The look on Cole’s face on the first hit in the first inning of the Wednesday night game,told you eactly what he thought of Marte’s effort on the play. I don’t think he was being lazy,he just used poor judgement. His lack of real feel for the game is evident often. And I have been a fan of his since I first saw him play in person.

  • BallHeadWonder
    August 22, 2014 8:18 am

    The move to 2nd is Yeah Neil’s Insurance Policy!! They will have 3 years of options and use them every time Yeah Neil’s back wants to act up!! Hopefully as it did for JHay going back and forth to Indy will continue to motivate him to continue doing what he is doing with the bat and clean his defense up at 2nd. But the dude is freakish athletic and can make all the close plays that Yeah Neil and Jason Nix miss. I think once Hanson gets a taste of “The Show”, this dude will TAKE OFF!! He will see just how close he is and clean up all the defensive shortcomings. Trust me, it’s amazing what a little piece of Pineapple dangling in front of you will do to clean your act up!! Plus he is what, 21?? He is a junior in College!! We were all 21….I hope!! Some are more mature than others!! But I’m telling you, when this kid puts it together, he will make Yeah Neil expendable!! And I am a Yeah Neil fan, but also a Realist!! Plus we may not even be able to keep Yeah Neil the way we squeeze pennies around here!!

    • Wabbit_Season
      August 22, 2014 8:41 am

      BallHeadWonder…
      … Are you, or are you not, Alen Hanson?… Or Daryle the Pirate Fan? I’m onto you, man.

      -Wabbit

      • BallHeadWonder
        August 22, 2014 9:53 am

        Hahahahaha!!! Nah my friend!! I wish I did have a bunch Pirate crazy fans like myself talking about me and my chances to make the League!! Just seen this kid play a few times and every time I have been out to see him, he has had great games with NO ERRORS!!! Believe it or not!! LOL

  • Leefoo Rug Bug
    August 22, 2014 8:12 am

    The biggest thing to me, besides his pedestrian .771 OPS (even for a middle infielder) is how has his disciplinary issues affected his prospect status.

    Plus, he is still making too many errors at 2b.

    In hindsight, we may have traded the wrong infielder to the Mets?

    • Lee you have to stop with the ops stuff. It just isn’t a valid measure for speed first players. It has been clearly proven that OBP and SLG are not equal in run production, combine that with zero credit for SB and you make some invalid conclusions. Pick another metric like wRC+ that includes baserunning. Hanson has the 4th best wRC+ for a middle infielder in the Eastern League and the top guy is 33 years old. His wOBA, which corrects for the problems in OBP, and SLG (ex. OBP treats all hits as being equal, in SLG a double isn’t worth 2x a single like it is valued), is also 4th best. An above average offensive player at 2B or SS is quite valuable.

  • To me, Hanson has always been the 2b of the future. I feel like an eventual move to 2b has always been already built into other rankings. If this was a bona fide SS with the same offensive ceiling, we would be talking about a top 25 prospect in the game I think.

    • jg: I think the Pirates gave him 2014 to prove he could get those E’s down to around 20 for the season. Instead, he had around 28 with still 25% of the season remaining. In the majors, if you want a Top 10 SS, he has to be less than 10 E’s through 100+ games (Mercer is at 9). Numbers 11 thru 25 average about 15 E’s, and usually include SS who are hitters first and fielders 2nd. So, if he would have gotten to 20 or below, he would have been a true prospect at SS. When you look at the two elite minor league SS, Francisco Lindor at AA has 15 and Carlos Correa at Hi A has 11 or 12. I like the move to 2B and he can always move back to SS, but for right now, we have to figure a way to get his bat in the lineup along with the young bats of Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.

      • I guess i’ve seen that he simply doesn’t have the arm for it, errors aside. Errors in the minors (and majors) can get iffy for player analysis. For example, Marte could drop a ball that no other LF in the league would get within 10 feet of. Gotta actually watch the players. Which the Pirates do. No problem trying to keep him at SS for as long as possible though.
        I’m just assuming the Top 100 Prospects type ‘scouting experts’ always had the eventual move to 2b built in.

        if Hanson was going to be a good defender at SS and project to hit .280/.350/400, hit 10 HR, and steal 25 bags, that’s a case for an elite prospect. Heck. That’s just a batting avg tick down from being a Slower Jose Reyes. A star.

        those numbers from 2b are simply Neil Walker with less pop and more wheels. A good, not great player.

        So what’s my point as it relates to the article?

        I think Tim’s and everyone else’s prospect ranks have always had the move to 2b in the back of their minds because if it wasn’t, we’d have a case to have previously ranked him above everyone not named Glasnow or Taillon when he had a chance at SS. He’s been ranked as more of a Neil Walker player than a Jose Reyes player. As a result, we don’t have to really change his ranking at all.

  • Scott Kliesen
    August 22, 2014 5:13 am

    The bigger question to me is who is stepping aside once he’s brought up? Harrison? Walker? He may profile to play 2nd, but Pirates seem pretty well set there for the next season.

    I suppose it’s possible Walker is moved to 3rd and Harrison is returned to super utility bench player, but I’m of the belief that’s a net loss in production. At least in the short-term while Hanson gets his sea legs at ML level.

    • SK: I think the move or non-move to keep him at AA assures that he will not be a consideration in 2015. He is staying at AA for “seasoning”! The kid had his breakout year in Lo A in 2012 and could easily have been selected as the Minor League POY. But, IMO, it was a toss up between he and Gregory Polanco, playing at the same level. I favored Hanson because he posted numbers of Extra Base Hits that were unheard of – 33 Doubles, 13 Triples, and 16 HR’s for a total of 62 – from a leadoff hitter!! And this year at AA, as a 21 year old, he has a quad-double going with double figures in doubles, triples, HR’s, and SB’s and is also in the top 3 on the team in RBI’s.

      I saw a point earlier this year where Neil Walker would move to 1B with Barmes or JHAY at 2B. That would have eliminated the need for two guys at 1B, but then the Pirates got Ike Davis and that was over. I still see that as a possibility in 2015, giving Neil Walker the whole off-season to prepare. Eventually, we have to do something with either Pedro or JHAY, or both because there will be no happiness in Mudville if there is not enough playing time for either. Both are in their age 27 seasons with a lot of baseball in both of their futures, but there are only 8 position players on the field at any one time. The Pirates 7 game losing streak put them in situation where they are behind the Brewers, Cards, Giants, and Atlanta for the WC. If they do not string together a bunch of victories real quickly, the decision about what to do may be handled by others looking for help down the stretch.

  • You gotta like what Hanson brings to the table in terms of tools, but his intermittent breaks/suspensions (I’m not sure what to call them) throughout his minor league career make me somewhat leery.

  • In the second paragraph you said converted him to a shortstop instead of second baseman

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