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Monday, December 5, 2022

Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 Top Prospects: #20 – Alen Hanson

The Pirates Prospects 2017 Prospect Guide is now available for pre-sales. The book will be released the week before Spring Training, and we are currently in the process of making the final changes with editing and formatting.

The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2017 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting $10 off, and Annual subscribers getting $5 off. The eBook will be released when the book is released, and will also come with discounts. Details on the promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks as a countdown to the start of Spring Training, and to give a preview of the release of the book. We will be wrapping up on Monday, February 13th. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

We start the countdown with the number 20 prospect, Alen Hanson.

20. Alen Hanson, 2B

Hanson had a breakout season in West Virginia in 2012, propelling him to becoming one of the top prospects in the system. Since that point, he has seen a steady decline in value. He showed the skills to be able to stick at shortstop, but his consistency was an issue, and he constantly made errors on routine plays. His hitting also hasn’t been consistent, with stretches of potential, followed by stretches where he struggles.

Since moving to second base, Hanson has shown better defense. However, the offense has gotten more inconsistent the closer he’s moved to the majors. A big reason for this seems to be that he’s pressing to try and hit his way to the majors. This was apparent in 2016 when he got called up for a series, and was swinging for the fences in every at-bat after being sent back to Triple-A.

The Pirates called Hanson up at the end of the year, but didn’t give him much playing time, despite being out of the race. He has fallen behind Adam Frazier on the depth charts, and that was apparent with their playing time in 2016. Hanson started getting work at third base and in left field in order to increase versatility, which he will need in 2017. He is out of options, and will have the inside track for the final bench spot, but will need versatility to get in the lineup and show he belongs, assuming they give him a shot this time around.

Hanson has gone from a guy who was seen as a potential All-Star shortstop after the 2012 season to a guy who now projects as a bench player. He could still make an impact as a super utility player, much like Frazier did in 2016. He’s also young enough that he could emerge as a starter at second base if he can fix his offensive struggles. A lot of that would involve getting out of his own head and playing his game, rather than trying to crush the ball. If he gains enough offensive consistency, then he has the speed and defense to be at most an average starting second baseman in the majors.

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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.

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rich

Hanson is in a quasi-catch 22. His pressing is preventing him from earning a spot even though “giving” him a spot might relax him enough to play like an MLB second baseman.
I hate to say it (and even think it) but you almost wish someone has a short term, minor injury that forced Hanson to start for a month.

pierogieking

I kind of agree with this. Wish they would have given him some time last September.

Y2JGQ2

I’m not sure if i understand why- if he fixes his inconsistencies, at best he’d be an average starting second baseman? Realistically only his inconsistencies hold him back from being a way above average player with his speed, arm, ability to hit with pop. Is there disagreement now on those issues?

Mike Shutlock

Time, I may have made a mistake. I ordered my 2017 guide in December. Did I order to early? I wanted to make sure you received my payment. Thanks.

Mike Shutlock

Thanks Tim.

Fuzzy

Agreed, how would you classify Jose Bautista compared to Hanson? Give me an article on a comparative history of the two. I’ll read it.

Y2JGQ2

The only thing you’ve said about him that is holding him back is focus and approach. That can literally happen overnight……it has for many players. This isn’t a kid who doesn’t understand the strike zone, has no range, bad reaction time, a slow bat, no speed…………he has all the tools, so best case is not an average player. It’s just that the likelihood of reaching his ceiling is getting smaller, its not getting lower by my estimations.

Sean

I’d wonder then what Hanson’s scouting grades would be. I’m paraphrasing between multiple sites/analysis here plus a handful of times seeing him play:
Hit – 50
Power – 40
Speed – 65
Field – 55 (at 2B)
Arm – 50 (at 2B)

I know you can’t just simply add those up and spit out a grade, but together those I those round out to average, maybe a tick above. I’ve always thought his pop could eventually be fringe-average, and that playing up would make him above average.

Likely? No, but I’m inclined to agree that average as a ceiling is just a tad low.

Y2JGQ2

Honestly his arm at 2B has to be a 55. I’d buy everything else with the caveatt hat his second base fielding could end up getting better still. He’s relatively new to 2b, and its still a focus issue, not a talent issue. when speed drops to 60, with minor ticks up in defense….this is more than a tick above average for a ML starting 2B. His power could always tick up some as his speed declines too

Y2JGQ2

no…..i’m looking at skills that relate to success. If he has the tools, he definitely can be better than an average player, but “at best” is still realistic -just low probability. maybe its semantics, but i can’t see why he can’t play above average defense, hit .270 to .280 and put up a mid 700 OPS during his peak years while stealing 30 bases or so. That’s not unrealistic, and its much better than average, isn’t it?

joe s

In my opinion he is better than Frazier and just needs time to show it.

Scott K

IMO, he should be better than Frazier and no matter how much time he’s given, I’m not sure he ever will be.

leefoo

If we could combine Fraziers’s hit tool with Hanson’s fielding tool, we’d have an All Star second baseman.

freddylang

…or those two combined might be Josh Harrison. Harrison would be ok if you had a SS or C that hit for a little power at the bottom of the lineup…or if Harrison could have become a guy that could pop 10-12 a year…but you can’t bat Harrison at the top (EVEN THOUGH THIS DOESN’T STOP HURDLE) and Cerveli, Harrison, Mercer at the bottom last year was not good. What? 16HR? If they could hit 25 or so it would be a huge boost.

ginbear

Is there anywhere I can go to look at minor league batted ball profiles?

One of the things that pops out to me at Hanson is when he moved up to AAA, his ISO immediately dropped by 40 points, and he started hitting into 3 times as many double plays (which suggests he’s hitting a lot more ground balls), with little to no change in his other numbers. This has been consistent for both AAA years.

When I hear coaching talk about his hitting, I keep hearing a theme about keeping the ball on the ground and “use his legs.” I do not believe this is the right approach, and sabr analysis says its almost never the right approach at the ML level. There’s a world of space between swinging for the fences and deliberately hitting ground balls, and the latter, as stated several times by Dean Treanor, seems to be what they have been instructing Hanson to do. That would be bad coaching, imo. If you look at other scouting reports, the consistently limit him to a UT guy precisely because of a lack of power and a “hack and slash” approach.

stanek251

More DP’s but no progress in power, in this case, is likely a result of him trying to hit more homeruns but because of his lack of power, he ends up hitting a lot of fly balls and rollover 4-hop ground balls (thus more DP’s). Coaches that talk about him hitting more balls on the ground would realistically like to see more line drives and hard GB’s (not chopped ground balls) while hoping for fewer unproductive routine fly balls.

ginbear

They’ve turned him into a ground ball machine. Over 55%, which would be 7th in all of baseball. Ground balls produce bad offense. No one should be trying to hit them at this level (see the article I linked). I don’t see why we should double down on this.

ginbear

Fantastic. Thank you!

ginbear

I need more time to look at this, but yeah,

2014 @ AA: 45.4% GB / 32.9% FB / 11.3% LD / 10.3% IFB%
2015/16 @ AAA: 55.1% GB / 19.7% FB / 17.5% LD / 7.7% IFB

Those are really poor batted ball figures. Just for comparison , J-Hay’s MAJOR league record is 41% GB / 22% LD / 37% FB / 7% IFB.

Heck, Billy Hamilton is at 44% GB for his career. NO ONE should hit more ground balls than Billy Hamilton. I don’t know how much is correctable, but 55% GB is very unlikely to produce a successful hitter at the ML level.

ginbear

“You have to keep the ball out of the air. He has just enough power to [mess] him up. He needs to hit the ball on the ground. He can’t be a guy that hits the ball in the air. He has to hit the ball on the ground and hit line drives. He has to bunt for a base hit. He has to run more on the bases.”

– Dean Treanor. Good God I’m glad he’s gone.

Darkstone42

Treanor being gone could be exactly what gets Hanson back on track as a prospect.

ginbear

This team can’t afford to indulge itself in old timey truisms. As far as I am concerned this one has been debunked.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/ground-balls-a-hitters-best-friend/

ginbear

Yeah, this franchise really can’t afford to indulge itself in disproven old timey truisms. This is absolutely one of them.

leefoo

I remember reading how he was always “young for his” level, as if that was going to fix his inconsistencies.

It’s a bummer that his hitting is so inconsistent. I would’ve loved to have seen him take JHay’s place.

Prospects will break your heart.

emjayinTN

The year Josh Harrison was promoted to the Pirates he was 23 and was hitting .310 at AAA, but his fielding was a pitiful .897 in 40 games at 3B and a below average .950 in 21 games at 2B. Hanson has batted .264 the past 2 years as a leadoff hitter who has stolen 35 bases each year, and has been selected as the Best Defensive 2B in the AAA IL both years.

The fact is that Hanson should have been traded the day after signing Josh Harrison to a 4 year contract. Harrison can be an average 2B, but the Pirates cannot afford $7.5 mil or $10.5 mil – remember Neil Walker? Sooner or later JHay will have to be traded. I think the Pirates have tried, but there have been no takers. I think that should tell us something?

EWS34

I hoped he would be the top of lineup hitter we have needed.

mitch t

And that’s why JHay is worth more than we give him credit. It’s not so easy to be league average

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