Morning Report: Alen Hanson is Off to Another Slow Start

There seems to be a pattern emerging with Alen Hanson. In each of the last three years, he has started off the season in a slump. We touched on it last night in the Prospect Watch, because it’s possible he is starting to hit his stride. In game one of the doubleheader, he went 1-for-3 with a walk, then followed that up with three hit in three at-bats in the second game. He has been good recently, but isn’t out of the woods just yet. On Saturday, Hanson had a three-hit game. Then after an off-day on Sunday, he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Based off the last two seasons though, he should just about be ready to take off.

Hanson put himself on the prospect map with his 2012 season at West Virginia. That year, the 19-year-old shortstop hit .410 in April and finished the season with a .309/.381/.528 slash line in 124 games. Big things were expected from him the next year when he was promoted to Bradenton and the season started off disastrous. Not only was he not hitting early, his fielding was awful. After a .191 average and ten errors in ten games, Hanson was pulled aside, given a few days to clear his head and work on things on the backfields.

After four days off and a few quiet games once he got back, Hanson hit his stride with Bradenton and finished his time there with a .281/.339/.444 line through 92 games, which led to a mid-season promotion to Altoona. The 20-year-old held his own at AA, then went to the Arizona Fall League and put up stats similar to his time with the Curve.

Hanson started back at Altoona in 2014 and the April stats were not pretty. In 21 games, he hit .233/.274/.333 and had a 5:21 BB/SO ratio. His lowest OPS for any month after that was June, when he posted a .749 mark, but even that came with a .303 batting average.

Through 18 games this year, he has a .243/.293/.271 slash line, with a 5:17 BB/SO ratio. The hope is that this is just another slow start and a couple three-hit games over the past few days is a sign of better things ahead. Because he has been considered a prospect for four seasons now, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he is just 22 years old and one of the youngest players in the International League. For comparison sake, he is five months younger than JaCoby Jones and two months younger than last year’s first round draft pick Connor Joe, who has still yet to play his first game.

Hanson should be fine at AAA this year and have solid stats by the end of the season. The fact that he has started off slow each of the last two seasons should tell you to give him some time before passing judgement. The good part is that he is at a position of depth for the Pirates right now, so unlike most prospects in the past, once he does start to get on a hot streak, there shouldn’t be an immediate call to bring him up. We have got some early reports that his fielding looks solid this season at second base, so maybe he is starting to put it all together. Chances are that we won’t see him until September and then the Pirates will have some choices to make next year with their infield. They may just want to leave him down in AAA for April based on these last three years.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 6-2 to the Cubs on Tuesday night. Gerrit Cole takes the mound for game three of the series tonight, looking to avoid the sweep. He did not face the Cubs the first time these two teams met this year. Kyle Hendricks starts for Chicago. He faced the Pirates last Thursday and allowed three earned runs over 5.1 innings of work, picking up the no-decision in the 5-4 win for Pittsburgh.

In the minors, Chad Kuhl looks to finish off the amazing month for Altoona starters. He has allowed two earned runs in three starts and the Curve starting pitchers have combined to give up ten earned runs in 17 games, with four of those runs coming in one start by Jason Creasy this week. Wilfredo Boscan has gone six innings in each of his three starts and he is holding batters to a .203 BAA and a .538 OPS. Altoona has an early afternoon start time. Bradenton has off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (11-10) @ Cubs (12-7) 8:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (2.19 ERA, 7:27 BB/SO, 24.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (11-9) @ Louisville (7-12) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter:Wilfredo Boscan (1.50 ERA, 6:12 BB/SO, 18.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (11-6) @ Akron (10-9) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (1.13 ERA, 6:11 BB/SO, 16.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (10-10) vs St Lucie (10-10) 6:30 PM 4/30(season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (12-7) @ Hagerstown (9-10) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dovydas Neverauskas (8.71 ERA, 11:10 BB/SO, 10.1 IP)

Highlights

From Monday, an RBI single from Steve Lombardozzi. He is hitting .379/.438/.515 in 18 games this year. The batting average is the third best in the International League.

Recent Transactions

4/29: Jaff Decker placed on disabled list. Wilkin Castillo added to Indianapolis roster.

4/27: Jeremy Bleich promoted to Altoona

4/26: John Sever added to WV Power roster. Austin Coley transferred to WV Black Bears roster.

4/25: Jonathan Schwind placed on disabled list.

4/25: Justin Sellers transferred from Bradenton to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/25: Jeremy Bleich added to Bradenton roster.

4/22: Francisco Diaz assigned to WV Black Bears roster. Kawika Emsley-Pai added to WV Power roster.

4/21: John Sever assigned to WV Black Bears roster. Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power roster.

4/20: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

4/19: Wilkin Castillo assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/19: Pat Ludwig retires.

4/18: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list and optioned to Indianapolis. Adam Miller assigned to WV Black Bears.

4/18: Junior Sosa sent to Bradenton. Barrett Barnes assigned to Extended Spring Training.

4/17: Brad Lincoln assigned to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez assigned to Altoona.

4/17: Chris Stewart activated from disabled list. Tony Sanchez optioned to Indianapolis.

4/16: Jordan Luplow added to West Virginia Power. Jose Regalado transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/16: Kelson Brown transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

 

This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, one was part of a father-son combo that both played for the Pirates. Pitcher Tony Armas made 15 starts and 16 relief appearances for the 2007 Pirates. He had an awful season, posting a 6.03 ERA and ended up pitching just three more Major League games following his time in Pittsburgh. His father, Tony Armas the outfielder, was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1971 and played briefly with the team in 1976, before he was traded to the Oakland A’s.

Also born on this date was outfielder John Vander Wal, who was part of two big trades for the Pirates. In 2000, he was acquired for Al Martin, then in 2001 at the trade deadline, he was sent to the San Francisco Giants as part of the Jason Schmidt deal. Vander Wal put up big numbers for the Pirates in limited time in 2000, driving in 94 runs in 384 at-bats.

One game of note, and another from the 1990 season mentioned in the link above. On this date in 1934, the Pirates played their first Sunday home game in franchise history. They beat the Cincinnati Reds by a 9-5 score in front of 20,000 fans. Prior to 1934, there was a law on the books, prohibiting Sunday baseball(professional games) in the state of Pennsylvania. Owner Barney Dreyfuss was against the idea of Sunday baseball at home, so he never fought the law. That meant that the Pirates franchise went their first 52 seasons without playing a Sunday game at home, often times traveling to nearby Cincinnati, or Cleveland during the earlier days, to play their Sunday games. Dreyfuss passed away in 1932 and after that, both the Phillies and Pirates appealed the law, getting it removed in time for the 1934 season.

 

  • Do you think the Pirates would entertain trading Hanson at some point this season? The have Kang for a couple more years to play 2B if needed there, plus with Moroff at AA, Weiss and Reyes at A ball coming soon the depth may be there. Could potentially move Jacoby Jones to 2B as well.

    • Eugene Sinicki
      April 29, 2015 1:27 pm

      When he is on his game, Hanson is a legit top of the order bat. He will hit lead off, maybe in the 2 hole.

      • And that’s the problem. Lots of guys can look like “legit” top of the order bats “when they’re on”. The problem with guys like Hanson who don’t walk much is that they’re also absolutely terrible top of the order bats when they’re not “on”. Look no further than Josh Harrison absolutely killing the top of the lineup right now.

    • Scott: The Pirates are in need of a leadoff hitter. Hanson has put up very good average and power numbers from the leadoff spot at Lo A, Hi A, and then AA last year. Check back to 2012 when Hanson was leadoff and Polanco batted #2/3 in Lo A.

      I think the Pirates have some decisions to make – will they keep Pedro? Will they want to sign Walker long term? If Pedro gets traded, I would slide Neil Walker to 1B, and sign him long term. Then I would bring up Alen Hanson as the 2B and leadoff hitter. I think 1B would be easier physically on Walker and the position change could extend his career a few extra years.

      • Emjay- we are OVERLOADED with leadoff hitters. If Polanco isn’t a leadoff hitter (at this point in his career) i really don’t know who is. Hanson without any walking ability certainly wouldn’t be more succesful than Polanco

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    April 29, 2015 9:42 am

    Locke and Worley are just not good enough….we need upgrades in both spots. Kingham and Sadler would be upgrades over these two.

    • That’s definitely not true, but thanks for the comment. Kingham will one day be an upgrade, but isn’t pitching any better than Worley or Locke in AAA. Sadler with the exception of his single start this year, has been crushed in the majors……..thanks for playing

      • Not deeming Morton a savior but do you know how close he is to returning?

        • Exactly what I thought after these last few starts. There are a lot of Chuck haters out there, but when his fastball is sitting at 92 with that crazy movement, he’s tough to hit. I’m hoping he can get back to that ground chuck form

          • I think Worley is more concerning than Locke in this situation.

            Jeff Locke is doing Jeff Locke things. Looking great when he’s on (Milwaukee x 2), but shying away from contact making things worse overall when he starts to get hit around a bit (Cubs x 2).

            Worley, on the other hand, has pretty clearly seen his stuff back up, and that’s a real problem. We know for fact that he has an extremely fine line between quality Major League starter and struggling to be a big league pitcher in any capacity, all basically revolving around pinpoint command. That hasn’t been there so far. And he simply won’t be a capable starter – or reliever – until it returns.

            Assuming they can straighten out what they screwed up in Morton, he’ll be an improvement.

            • A HEALTHY Morton would be an improvement on both. Would like to see Kingham take off and be a lock for a June call up. Not quite seeing that yet though but it’s early. Is Kingham a Super Two concern or is that not really on the table since he’s not dominating?

              • Certainly agree with you there, sir.

                Morton seems to be progressing well. He’s clearly on board with the plan, and I doubt they’d be pushing him into game action if he at least has moved past what we saw in ST.

                I can appreciate John’s recent comments and Kingham and his strike-throwing, but I’m not nearly as concerned. Kid is still limiting walks to 5% and holding the competition to a .259 batting average without much power all while posting good K-rates and dealing with an elevated BABIP. He’s learning to get outs, and that’s important. With that being said, I still don’t think Super 2 is really a factor as he could certainly benefit from a few more months in AAA.

                • So we’ll probably see Sadler and Morton before Kingham you think?

                  • Morton, yes, and Sadler if in a spot start situation. But I’m still confident Kingham will have a true spot in the rotation before any other current Pirate prospect.

        • I have no reason to think he will be any better or anymore consistent than Locke or Worley, so I really don’t care

  • Cutch starts slow every year too. Mercer seems to be in the same boat. I fully expect Cutch to be up to .315, Mercer to be at least at .255, and Marte to be at .280 by the end of May. Hanson has a boatload of talent and I expect him to be our starting 2B by 2017.

    • Cutch is going to go from .180 to .315 in a month????? He’d have to hit somewhere around .425 over the whole month of May, you do realize that right? Mercer and Marte predictions are definitely realistic

      • I was wondering what he would actually have to do, so I figured I’d share. There are only 22 April games and 28 May games. If you do the per AB average he has now, he would only have to hit .413…He did hit .446 in July 2012, but the rest of his months say that is very unlikely.

        • I’d settle for .300 by the end of may. The bucs winning as much as they have shows the depth and quality that they have. On a side note games like the one today are what defines an ace, if cole comes in and dominates chicago putting a stop to what could turn into a losing streak then his elevation to ace will be well on it’s way, if on the other hand he is shaky or bad then the elevator is stuck for a bit.

      • I certainly do. Cutch has had some absolutely sick summer months before. I do believe he’s gonna break out in a big way very soon and Wednesday night might’ve been the start.

        • If you saw the at bat earlier where he swung at a slider 2 feet outside in the dirt, you might be thinking differently

        • Anyone want to rethink their predictions?

          • Yeah, I stand by the Cutch prediction. Marte is already hovering at .280 and Mercer won’t get the at bats due to Kang stealing his playing time.

            • Well It’s literally now impossible for Cutch to reach your predictions, but he is hitting way better!

    • I’m torn on Cutch…

      On one hand, it’s just plain silly to get too worked up in April about the best hitter in the National League when he’s carrying a .185 BABIP. That’s quite obviously going to to change for the better, and he’s still walking and striking out as you’d expect.

      But on the other hand, guy clearly isn’t sharp right now, and I’m not convinced the knee is to blame. He took this nonchalant attitude towards spring training, and his timing has unquestionably suffered. Just not making much solid contact right now. I know it’s sacrilegious to question him, but he’s just plain wrong about this 80%-is-good-enough attitude. This game is too damn humbling to think that way, no matter who you are.

      • Based, on that triple and infield single he had on wednesday I think his knee is fine. He always heats up with the weather.

      • NMR- I’m with you. This whole “keep Cutch fresh” thing is ridiculous. He never runs out ground balls anymore he never runs out fly balls between home and first ever, if its anywhere near the wall he stares at it, if its in the gap he trots to a double when if he would just run, he’d be at third. The only reason he got a triple was because of the misplay in the outfield, and an infield single means nothing when it is because of a bad throw. I would not even think about resigning him any further, I think he’ll be about done by age 32 and I think his decline is already starting.

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