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