Alen Hanson Ranks Among Top Second Base Prospects

MLB Pipeline continued their rankings of top ten prospects at each position, announcing the best second baseman on Monday. Alen Hanson ranked sixth among second baseman. Even though he switched to second base in August in 2014, he was considered a shortstop for MLB Pipeline’s list last year and didn’t make the top ten at a deep position. However, they had him third overall among second baseman on the top 100 prospects list, which was updated mid-season.

Hanson is expected to arrive in Pittsburgh during the 2016 season. If Jung-Ho Kang isn’t ready to go Opening Day, you could see Hanson make the team at the beginning of the season, though it’s unlikely he would stick with the team as a bench player after Kang returns. He has been gaining versatility by playing some third base and shortstop since switching to second base, but a large majority of his time has been spent at second, so he could use more time at those spots before assuming a Major League utility role. Hanson hit .263/.313/387 with Indianapolis last year, doing that at age 22, which put him among the youngest players in the league to start the season. He stole 35 bases and was named the top defensive second baseman in the International League.

The Pirates have done well the first five lists from MLB Pipeline, with Josh Bell placing second among the top first baseman, Elias Diaz and Reese McGuire making the catching list, and Tyler Glasnow ranking second for right-handed pitchers.

  • I don’t like Mercer and I know the Pirates need a shortstop that can not only defend but can also hit. Kang is not the guy to play short. Before his injury his range was limited and now after the injury it will be more limited. Kang will be a fine thirdbaseman, that said..NH is in love with Mercer and i am not sure why. Mercer can’t hit for average, nor power and he can’t steal bases. It is fine that he is very good with the glove but when you have an offense like the Pirates have, you need someone that can also provide offense at the ss position. Other teams do. In my lifetime the Pirates never really developed a really good hitting shortsto from their system. Gene Alley had two good years, Freddie Patek was traded(he would have been the best), and Frank Taveras I will say Jay Bell was the best in my lifetime but he was not developed by the organization, he was acquired in trade as was Tim Foli.

    • We could surely upgrade offensively from Mercer, but idk how we get to “we need someone to provide offense at SS” with an offense like ours.

      Offense is good enough, or has been the past few years, even with Mercer. Again, better offense at SS obviously helps that but our offense really isnt so fragile we cant handle a light hitting SS.

      • with the starting 5 we have right now, our offense isn’t good enough, but it projects to be in 2017…..so it’s all priorities for the organization just like always

        • Isnt good enough depends on the metric being used. Better than CHC? Nah. Good enough to contend? Almost for sure, unless we assume the worst for about 2 key players.

          • In and of itself, maybe, but the pitching staff taking a step back could absolutely put more pressure on the bats to pick up the slack.

          • Isn’t good enough for us to improve on the results from last year i guess is what i was saying…..I don’t think its good enough to easily land the 2nd w/c spot even assuming no major injury to key players but that depends more on what our competition does than what we do. As it stands I think this is an 88 win team.

  • Somewhat surprised how folks think two AAA pitchers, including one who hasn’t pitched in 2+ years, are going to step in and dominate…yet think a guy who plays stellar defense, hit about league average and is almost 4 years younger than the common age is going to go down in flames.

    • he struggles when he goes up a level- he’s done it 3 times, i’m not sure why you think its surprising- he will adjust if given the chance, but he will likely struggle offensively

      • Yeah…and?

        Is it the new expectation that folks have to immediately succeed? If so, let’s get rid of Polanco…after all, it’s been almost two years and he isn’t Mike Trout.

        Some guys take time. Nothing new about that…

        • Blaine- there is no and….I haven’t been saying Hanson is going to fail, I don’t think he will. I was actually agreeing with your point if you’d stop being such an ass for a minute and read

    • It’s all about translation, Blaine. How will Hanson’s skill translate.

      We’re talking about a guy who doesn’t walk, strikes out around league average rate, and *maybe* has fringe-average power. Find me starting big league shortstops with that profile?

      • You mean 2Bmen, right?

        Doesnt walk seems like a bit of an exaggeration. He’s not walking a ton, but he’s average at his position in his current league and at a rate that was Walker like. If his 7% walk rate from AAA is to continue, itd be enough to keep him top 10-ish in walks. Not elite, not poor.

        Never a leadoff option to be sure.

        • Steamer and ZiPS both project him to walk at a 5% rate.

          Yes, that is poor.

          • As a rookie i might see that, but it’d be his worst rate of his career. Streamer isnt using a big enough sample size from an at bats standpoint to really see much useful information.

            He’d not be above 7, but 5-7 as a rookie leaves a big gap from poor to average.

            • That’s not how Steamer works…the rate projections are independent of the playing time projections.

              If we’re arguing semantics between “poor” and “below average”, I’ve already proven my point.

              • 7 isnt below average, and i never said below average.

                He has to post a 3-4 year low in walk rate to get near “he never walks” and even then he’s not bottom 3rd of 2Bmen who qualify in walk rate.

      • Minor league stats…

        Player A:

        OPS: .820
        PA/HR: 51.43
        PA/BB: 19.86
        PA/K: 4.99

        Player B:

        OPS: .787
        PA/HR: 59.89
        PA/BB: 12.96
        PA/K: 5.95

        Pretty close. A has more power, B appears to have the better eye.

        B is Hanson, A is Marte.

        • First off, that’s not how projections work (and you’re already aware of that).

          Second, Starling Marte was upwards of 30% better relative to league average than Hanson in AA and AAA. Can’t pretend that’s insignificant.

          • I’m with you to a degree.

            But the kid did just fine in AA in 2014 and, supposedly, that jump is one of the most difficult to make. And, while last season was a step down in numbers…really, his were just a tad better than this infielders first full season in AAA at the same age:

            Hanson:

            529 PAs, .701 OPS, 37 BB, 91 K

            Neil Walker:

            550 PAs, .694 OPS, 29 BB, 102 K

            Will Hanson, eventually, be as good as Walker with the bat? No idea. It’s just too early to say. It just seems folks are down him for not being as otherworldly was he was 2012. He doesn’t have to be that great to be a good ballplayer.

  • I disagree that Hansen has no bat. In fact I expect him to be a pretty good hitter as well as a spark plug at the top of the order. He has shown that as he gets comfortable with every promotion, that he adjusts well. His power and speed will be keys in making him one of the better middle infielder hitters in the league in the future. People will be surprised at his power, they’ll say it’s ‘unexpected pop’ but it won’t be unexpected for me.

  • I want this guy to succeed. I have a feeling he will surprise us all.

  • Did Herrera lose his prospect status?

  • Hanson can field very well at 2b from what I am told. He also seems to have very good speed.

    However, his bat has a long way to go before I believe it is any good.

    And, I don’t care HOW young he is at this level. That “he’s young for the level” seems to get used way too often for a prospect who doesn’t hit well at a certain level.

    Hanson has had one good offensive year…just one. And there are a lot of good prospects who make it to the majors at 22 and hit well.

    Sorry if I am not ‘buying’ the bat.

    • Poor Hanson leefoo doesn’t like you. I’m hoping he becomes a beast and makes us forget Walker.

    • Im with you lee. Think we are in the minority.

      I just look at all the guys behind him in the system, and think he doesnt have a full three years to figure things out.

      • Give Alen a chance! He needs it he will be a stud.

        • I think a lot of guys will be jumping off the bandwagon when he gets the call. At least that group that sees him go 1-10 and labels him a bust out the gate.

          I think even Tim has pointed out every time Hanson goes up a level it takes awhile for him to adjust. No jump in pro ball is bigger than AAA to the show. We’ll see.

    • I’m not seeing that…he’s 22 at AAA.

      At the same age, and having come out of a major college program, Mercer put up similar numbers to Hanson’s…but was at A+.

      Sure, the kid might not be ready to take the reins immediately…and there will probably be a breaking-in period when he does…but I think he’s going to be just fine. If he turns out to be guy who consistently hits .270 with a .740 OPS, plays solid defense, and steals 15-20 bases…absolutely nothing wrong with that…in fact, that would pretty much make him a Brandon Phillips clone.

      • It’s not Mercer’s fault he was drafted out of college.

        • Do you have a point?

          It’s quite obvious what was said was that Mercer came in from a major program and, at the same age, was two levels behind Hanson with similar results.

          Again…Mercer and Alen put up, pretty much, the same numbers at age 22…the difference was that Jordy was at A+ and Hanson was at AAA…this was in spite of the fact that Mercer had numerous years of college ball under his belt.

          • And if Hanson hits anything like Mercer in the Major Leagues he’ll never sniff starting for a contender.

            Do *you* have a point?

          • My point is that age comparisons for two players is unfair as a college program is not a professional program, despite what some of you might think. Sure it means something, but when an international kid comes into pro ball at 16, that’s a huge advantage over anyone who goes to highschool anywhere, then goes to college for 2-3 years at least before signing. That takes away the age as being a primary point in my opinion. It is still a factor, but people bring it up like its gospel, it’s not. You can’t tell me that a kid whom has already been in a system working with coaches for 4 years is in the same place as a kid whom just got drafted, moved, and is getting used to life outside college and being taught how to do “baseball” very differently. It just isn’t an accurate way to compare two players with any depth.

  • Kang has the potential to be a very good – perhaps even great 3rd baseman. He is not the ideal SS – before his injury he was serviceable – but the range is not going to be good – and won’t get any better over the next few years. He COULD be a really good 2nd baseman – but don’t think that is where they see him. The consensus seems to be that J-Hay is a natural fit at 2nd and that Mercer will do at SS until they find something better. The folks who think Mercer is anything more than average defensively need to watch some tape.

    • Spot on with Mercer comment

    • I agree with everything except the mercer comment portion of it. If I do watch tape, I will see a conspicuous absence of something that makes someone an average defender at shortstop- mistakes. He doesn’t make them often and basically never in a crucial situation. all while having decent range and a decent arm

  • Definitely would like to see him get a chance to make the team out of ST…but, hopefully, in a starting capacity. Otherwise…send him down, let him work on his bat, and save the service time.

    • People see what part of Alen Hanson they want to see – me included. I see him as a dynamic player who can be a strong contributor now and in the future to the Pirates as a 2B and a leadoff hitter who can steal bases – 35 in AAA (75% success rate). Our other 2B prospects do not have his range at 2B nor do they have anywhere near the footspeed he has. And, once he gets his feet on the ground in the majors, I think he could be a fielder who could go across the bag to SS on a limited basis. Probably 300+ games at SS from 2012 thru 2014?

      Let’s get on with this transition with Bell and Hanson joining the infield as soon as possible in 2016.

  • My unbridled optimism. Hansen plays so well out of the gate that he takes over 2nd, J-Hay stays at 3rd, and Kang plays short.

    • They’re not playing Kang at short.

      • Why not? He handled it quite well while Mercer was out and he’s vastly superior offensively.

        • No- he didn’t handle it “quite” well…..were you watching reruns of the korean league instead of MLB last year?

          • He did handle short very well

            • I agree he played quality shortstop but Mercer is an amazing defender with great range. I like Kang at 3rd and Harrison in the super utility with Hanson at 2nd and Bell at 1st as an optimal infield at the all-star break.

              • I wouldn’t go that far…I think he is the beneficiary of defensive shifts, although he has good hands and makes all the plays he should. Additionally, he doesn’t make throwing errors. When I think of Mercer’s defense, steady comes to mind.

                • Agreed. Range is not Mercer’s strength, but he has a very high conversion rate for the balls he does get

              • I’ve never heard amazing defender with great range attached to any short stop expect Ozzie Smith.
                Sheesh
                Mercer is average shortstop at best

                • Well I guess I exaggerated, but from watching Mercer last year it seemed like he never made a mistake fielding balls to his position and never botched a throw to first. I’ll say he is a ‘quality’ shortstop who has good defense.

                • Mercer is very good defensively and advance metrics support this. His bat was anemic last year. Hopefully he returns to 90 Wrc plus this year

                • Rey Ordonez

            • Slightly below average if I’m looking at the metrics right, but a far superior bat. Not the ideal defensive arrangement but I don’t see why this is such an absurd proposition.

              • because you don’t put someone below average defensively at the most important defensive position on a team that preaches ground balls, that’s why.

            • I don’t mean to come off condescending, but statements without any backup just tick me off- he was not a positive value defender at shortstop last year- look at the stats- this year he will be slower and thus worse. His range was sad as is- he is a third baseman, period.

          • Seems others agree with me. Maybe you should back off your sarcasm there. I just don’t think Mercer’s defense offsets his lack of offense especially when we have multiple 2B/3B types with superior offense to Mercer.

            • I never back off sarcasm, this world without sarcasm is not a fun place. Anyone who exhibits a complete lack of “baseball” understanding is going to get sarcasm. I also like to overstate things for effect, and I don’t care if it aggrevates you, to me it is fun. But completely leaving out any sarcasm, It is preposterous to expect a kid whom was already only seen as a emergency shortstop before a gruesome leg injury to ever be put back there again for both injury reasons and lack of range reasons. He was not statistically an average defender last year at short, but was above average at third (actually he did better than anyone else at third) so how in the hell do you tell me that your team, which is a ground ball team, would be better off with a weaker 3rd baseman and a weaker shortstop, just to get Mercer off the field on offense, for a defense first position. and the player whom gets the extra playing time in place of Mercer is………? Hanson? -whom by the way would not project to be better than Mercer this year offensively. For 2016 there are no other options, so i’m not sure whom you are referring to.

              • I appreciate good natured sarcasm as much as the next person but yours came off as kind of malicious. I may be optimistic but I’m not an idiot and most of the time, I do thoroughly investigate my stats before posting. Mercer may be a steady glove but I remember him getting replaced in late innings down the stretch just 2 years ago. Now he has improved but he can’t hit righties at all and he’s an extremely slow starter. You’re right. With Kang’s injury, SS probably isn’t the best option. I just wish Mercer’s offense was at least adequate.

                • fair enough- I did say at the beginning of my statement that I didn’t mean to come off condescending, so obviously i wasn’t trying to be malicious. Anyways- all your points are correct about Mercer, but he does have the offensive ability, despite his struggles. He is absolutely as capable of having an OPS of .750 as Hanson will be, and if he could cut out the april/may of every year he would probably do it if he stays healthy….I think the jury though is not real big on his ability to fix that big problem

            • 30% of people agreeing with you is not a victory kozy

        • Mercer’s a good shortstop. I would like him to hit right handed pitching better, and maybe be less streaky. But the guy can play the position, and he hits better than the last couple guys we had there full time (Cedeno, Barmes).

    • with Kang’s injury, I don’t yhink he will have the range for short. Don’t want him around the second base bag.

      • Yup. I like keeping kang at 3b out of harms way. Plus defender at the hot corner, hopefully the bat will play up a bit relative to last year

      • This is the key part, with the knee injury I don’t think he’ll play at SS. Also he struggled going to his right when playing there.

      • I don’t think that he really had the pure athleticism to play SS before. While I don’t think he’ll be all that much less of an athlete now, it just seems like the safe move to try and keep him away from a place that he never really seemed to belong. His bat has too much value to play with fire like that. Exactly the reason Cutch shouldn’t be in CF anymore.

    • Lol hanson was sub 600 ops in 4 of 6 months last year at Indy. Mercer didn’t even do that at mlb level last year. Hanson isn’t taking any job away from mercer. This kid may be more overhyped than anyone in the system.

      • Ditto – the Hanson bandwagon is silly – Frazier would be a better move or Moroff…

        • You have never seen either Frazier or Moroff defensively. The are no Gold Gloves in waiting with either. Versatility is their strong suit.

          • Leo…would you rather have Moroff’s / Frazier’s bat or Hanson’s glove?

            I’ll take the bat. Imo, Hanson will never hit in the majors.

            Of course, Max and Frazier may never hit, either.

            What’s a GM to do?

            • I’d take Hansen just because his skill set could profile as a decent leadoff (relatively stable above-average batting average with decent speed) which is something the Bucs’ lineup has been missing for awhile.

              • Relatively stable? Did you not read John W’s post? FOUR months with sub .600 OPS’s last year.

                Think Jordy Mercer with some speed and you have (maybe) Hanson, IF he can hit that much in the majors.

                • He had a .701 for the season as a 22 year old in AAA.

                  And that the great thing about a baseball season…it’s a season long.

                • One of those months was six games in September. Indianapolis went to the playoffs with a .696 OPS, so that means he was above team average for a good team. He was also above average defensively and led the league in stolen bases. The league had a .689 OPS and 26.8 average age.

                  • Wait, so you’re saying he had an above average OPS, great fielding, and was 3-4 years younger than average?

                    Wow, sounds like he’s destined for failure.

            • JoseGuillensArm
              January 25, 2016 8:52 pm

              Yeah I’d pump the breaks a little on declaring the guy will never hit in the majors, regardless of how he performed in his single AAA year at age 22. He’s very young but it’s still easy to see that in his short career he has made improvements at each level with more experience. Some guys take a bit longer to catch on at each level and Hanson, as Tim has pointed out many times, has a history of starting slow and then heating up as he gets more comfortable/more ABs. This isn’t to say that he’s a sure fire regular at the MLB level, but some patience would be prudent.

            • I think the glove and speed are more useful the way our team is currently built- he can pinch run or pinch hit and bunt to lead off an inning and steal

              • …..and in terms of OPS- I think Hanson’s OPS will be higher than moroff’s or Fraziers considering their lack of power

        • Agree Bruce- Frazier made the All-World team at 2nd base with Pro Team USA this Fall. Must have done pretty well

      • Agree John W

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