Williams: Recapping What Went Wrong With Alen Hanson’s Pirates Career

NEW YORK – It was a bit funny listening to part of Clint Hurdle’s response to my question about why Alen Hanson didn’t get much playing time while he was in the majors.

“There’s been challenges for his game throughout the minor leagues,” Hurdle said. “If you’ve followed them you’re aware of them. We tried to help him make some marginal gains to become a more consistent player here in the two months we were here. We didn’t see enough right now to continue in the vein we were in with him.”

The “if you’ve followed him” part was a bit amusing, because I am definitely aware of Hanson’s challenges, specifically the biggest one dealing with his consistency. We’ve been following that on this site for years now, dating back to when Hanson burst on the scene as a top prospect.

It was overlooked in 2012 during his breakout season, since he was so young at the time, and most of his evaluation was based on upside, rather than where he was at the time. I got to see a lot of him in 2013 in Bradenton, and one consistent trend kept re-emerging. Hanson would make a difficult play, then totally boot a routine play. He would show skills at the plate for a stretch, then look completely lost for another stretch.

Those trends continued as he moved up. The Pirates eventually moved him to second base, where the defense was more consistent than it was at shortstop, and even tried moving him around the diamond to third base and the outfield to add versatility. But his bat never gained consistency, and the live views showed that he was often swinging for the fences, and trying to crush the ball. It was the classic “trying to do too much” situation, where Hanson was trying to crush every pitch as if the result of that at-bat would get him to the big leagues.

And so this quote from Hurdle yesterday was fitting for Hanson in 2017, but really could have been applied at any step of the way in his development, minus the part about playing time.

“We still haven’t seen the tools that he had come together,” Hurdle said on the decision to designate Hanson for assignment. “You see a tool here, you see a tool there. The challenges have been putting them all together. And the playing time hasn’t been probably conducive for him and what he’s experienced in the past.”

If you went through and looked at our rankings for Hanson in each Prospect Guide, you’d see a steady decline in his upside grade. I can only imagine the same thing was happening with the Pirates, as they continued pushing players ahead of him, such as Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna recently at the major league level.

From our end, Hanson only saw a slow and steady decline, rather than a rapid decline, because the tools were still there. He still had speed. He still had some pop in his bat. He still had some good defensive tools. He just didn’t have consistency. Year after year that factor would lower his potential rating, but the tools would keep him alive in the prospect rankings.

But there comes a time when you ignore the tools, because you just don’t think the player can ever be consistent enough to put things together. The player then becomes waiver wire fodder, possibly attractive to teams in desperate situations willing to see if something will finally click, but easily replaced with one of the many guys in baseball who has tools but also has something that holds them back.

I wrote earlier in the season that I felt it was time for the Pirates to move on from Hanson. That wasn’t because I didn’t think he had any shot at ever reaching his upside — although that seems like a very low probability outcome right now. It was mostly because I felt if Hanson was ever going to reach his upside, it would have to be with another team, since he was getting no chance with the Pirates. And if the Pirates weren’t giving him a chance, there was no use keeping him on the bench and wasting a spot.

We’ll see how it plays out for Hanson going forward. I’d be surprised if he did clear waivers, just because those tools are attractive enough for some team to take a chance, and then try and stash him away in the minors to get some additional work. It would certainly look bad for the Pirates if he did figure it out and they never gave him a shot to see what he could do in Pittsburgh. But there’s a reason they didn’t play him, and it’s the same reason they just designated him for assignment. He had the tools, lacked consistency, and it finally hit a breaking point with the consistency.

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.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Pirates, i.e. Huntington, made mistakes along the way, example, Jose Bautista let go because he was going to be too expensive to keep as a bench player. It was obvious that Bautista was on the verge of figuring out how to be a useful player, after being shuttled around the minor and major leagues. He had a very productive year returning to the Pirates system and playing 3B all year at AA Altoona. But it was a mistake to get cheap on him at the wrong time. Of course, nobody saw the 40+ HR years coming, but he could have been our #4 hitter these past several years!

Now comes high priced Hanson with his lack of concentration and bag of skills. I just don’t think the guy ever had the kind of intelligent drive that an Adam Frazier displays. But who really knows? Good he’s gone somewhere. Anywhere.


What tools did they see? How he pours Gatorade and how he receives a hotfoot on the bench? Quite a circuitous answer from Clint. When a manager describes a player by using the term “challenges” to describe his game after he doesn’t play him it probably means that he didn’t really like his game or want him there. I do think Gosselin and Moroff are better options because of their bats but I don’t know, 92 plate appearances in more than half of an mlb season in two years. He got used like a 37 year old UTIL that was used to rotting and coming in cold. Someone out there definitely could use him. I’ll give some benefit of the doubt because maybe there’s something we don’t know. Like Hanson pouting from lack of playing time or poor preparation or something.


I really hope he succeeds somewhere, but it is unlikely. Sad.


For his sake, I hope he gets to hang out with Keon Broxton and Jose Bautista in the All Star game someday.


Don’t hold your breath.

Michael Sankovich

I think we’re all tired of failing to draft/develop impact players. 10 years for NH & Co. and what do Pirates have to show for it? The 3 years where we had either the first or 2nd pick gave us Pedro, Cole & Taillon. We got one truly great year out of Cole, and flashes from the flawed, one dimensional Pedro. It appears that JT might be best hope for sustained, all star caliber performance. That’s it. No other player drafted during their tenure has made a true difference making like impact. A decade seems long enough; I am ready for a change in front office management. Things have grown stale; the Bucs need a group bringing in some new ideas.


I look at the Pirates farm and see a lot of potential players. The scouts they employ now are clearly better than the ones they inherited from Littlefield that made the recommendations the first few years.

Pedro’s contact issues were evident at Vandy, they overlooked them because of his power. I think NH has regretted that since and has over compensated, choosing lot’s of high contact ability, puny power type players, hoping the power develops later. Looking at Bell, Moroff etc., maybe that will work out.

Management’s success rate with prospects is better than average for the league.

joe s

What carp. It is the coaches and managers job to teach and get the best out of the player. This clearly wasn’t done here.


Allen never hit at a MLB ready level while in AAA. Eventually the player is responsible for his performance.


I don’t get your comment about him swinging for the fences. Every time I saw him play it looked like he was trying to slap the ball rather than drive it and as a result he rarely made good contact. But what I think what sealed it for him was his steal attempt a few games back when he slowed down and got thrown out at second after getting a decent jump.

Joe P

Not sure what his splits are, but seems a better Lefty. Perhaps the Ngoepe route of concentrating on one side of the plate may have helped his development.


This is the type of guy the Pirates used to grab off the waiver wire (pre-2011) and give him a starting job. If there is a team out there like that who has a position opening and can just let him play regardless of the results this year, that would be his best scenario. Of course, he would have to start producing…


Couple of things….

The “if you’ve followed him” part was a bit amusing, because I am definitely aware of Hanson’s challenges, specifically the biggest one dealing with his consistency. We’ve been following that on this site for years now, dating back to when Hanson burst on the scene as a top prospect.

I read the entire article and I know you guys slowly dropped him in the annual rankings. MY question is after 2 full years in AAA and not looking like a prospect, why in the hell was he ahead of guys like Frazier and Osuna? This kid should’ve been out of the top 30. Didn’t he also have attitude issues as well that should’ve factored into the rankings?

2nd point – I’d be surprised if he did clear waivers, just because those tools are attractive enough for some team to take a chance, and then try and stash him away in the minors to get some additional work. He’s out of options, whoever claims him would have to keep him on the 25-man for the rest of the year.


I must’ve missed when he was ranked below Osuna and Frazier….My 2nd point was you saying another team can claim him and try to stash him in the minors. Which obviously can’t happen, since he’s out of options.

Yeah, I remember those years and some of the players they took chances on. Generally, high draft picks that didn’t pan out…Guys like Jeff Clement and Lastings Milledge to name a few. Seems like they still try this with guys like Marinez and Linbloom.

Patrick Kelly

They can claim him, DFA him, and try to get him to the minors that way.


Well, yeah…

Steve Zielinski

Hurdle is FOS. This one reeks of he had his mind set to release him long ago.


What in Allen’s plate performance for the last three years persuades you that he is a MLB player?

Steve Zielinski

Watching him hit. Watching him field. Fielding: Hanson > JHay, Frazier. His BABIP is exceptionally low but he does not whiff much. He can drive the ball into the gaps.

Of course, when someone is FOS, as Hurdle is, it’s all bad for whomever is in his doghouse.


His OPS results for the last 3 or 4 years contradict what you say. His defense is better than Frazier yes, but comparable to JHay, though Allen more likely to goof up a routine play. But if great defense were the only requirement Gift Ngoepe would be an Allstar. In addition to inadequate hitting Allen’s real problem is that Moroff or Bostick may be better players.

Steve Zielinski

Morons is not likely a better player. Bostic?


Hanson wasn’t in Hurdle’s doghouse while in Indy, so how do you explain his mediocrity then ?

Steve Zielinski

I didn’t claim Hurdle caused Hanson’s play.


Clint played mind games with him for months then shines P2 and everybody else with that bullshit “and the playing time hasn’t been probably conducive for him and what he’s experienced in the past.” I do not think he could have been any clearer about his personal opinion regarding Alen Hanson – maybe NH should ask permission before promoting anybody to the Clint Hurdle ballclub.


I could have predicted this happening to Hanson as far back as AA.

Steve Zielinski

There are always players organizations abuse. Hanson and JJ Davis, Poulliot and Despres come to mind. One can see years before the fact that an organization will wash out the player rather than give him a legitimate opportunity to succeed. Hanson is one of those players.

It’s a shame that Hanson has not been as consistent as Bell, Meadows, Glasnow, Cole, Polanco, etc. Had he been consistently great and productive like them, he’d still be a member of the team.

Neil Walker was on the slaughter bench when he first came up. Fortunately, the vet of the day was so bad the team moved Walker to 2B. That bit of luck gave him a career and millions of dollars.


I don’t know what “playing time hasn’t been probably conducive for him” means. Last September when the team was in their swoon playing time could have been very conducive. However, Allen sat, and sat, and sat, and, oh, occasionally pinch-ran. The Bucs should have done something then rather than abuse him further and ruin him more..


I think he needs to get in to the weight room . Can’t see a team adding him to the 25 man roster.


Tim….I still remember, during his slide, when I would comment negatively about AH, you and JD kept saying “he is still young for this level”.

While that was almost always true, after a while it seemingly became more of an excuse for his poor performance than it was a valid criticism.

I kept hoping that I was wrong about him.

John Dreker

You’re pessimistic about everyone. Prospects fail more often than not, so of course your way of thinking, while quite depressing to live that way, is going to be correct most of the time. We see these players all of the time, we recognize the abilities they have and we don’t just write them off to take the easy way out. We put their potential out there, giving the floor/ceiling and likely result. You write them off automatically, then possibly admit when you’re wrong. That’s not what we are here for.

You use “prove me wrong” as your go to response without ever seeing the players. They just need to have a bad month and they fall into that category.

We could easily say every player they sign will be no more than a AAAA player at best and we will look like geniuses 95% of the time.

We had Hanson down to a bench player with medium risk in the last prospect guide, and that was with him having a guaranteed spot due to being out of options. Yet he didn’t get low risk. If you think a 24 year old who has never been given regular MLB playing time can’t still reach that potential, you’re crazy.


Hi all.

Um. I know Lee from the old Asylum days and we’ve even had a game at Toon Town.

I have to say that I don’t think John is casting any aspersions to the group or to Lee at all. He’s just responding to the commentary.

I find often in the digital age there are not “humor quotes” or anything like that and what that does – from a communications and English major perspective – is “leave out” important elements of what we’re writing.

You can easily, for example, mistake someone saying they have to babysit the grandkids at 5 a.m. when they say, “Great!” that they actually are happy about the situation when they are saying *yeah, effin’ great.”

So many times our posts are read without syntax and when the reader adds his own syntax it causes a misunderstanding.

Lee is a great guy. And he can’t be pessimistic like that because his wife is hot. I don’t know about John Dreker’s wife, but he’s a hell of a writer and he’s tops-blooby in my book.



This ! It isn’t a sin to be skeptical of young players in MiLB. But it gets to the point of ridiculousness to criticize players that one has either never seen play, or has once or twice.

Dale O

“You’re pessimistic about everyone.”

Mr. Dreker, have you ever heard the saying “pot, meet kettle”?


I think this is a terrible response to a long time reader, commenter and, most importantly, financial supporter like Lee. I’m stunned at how often the purveyors of this site poke at their own customers.

You and Tim should exercise caution when tossing out the ‘you don’t see them play’ number. With MiLB.tv, I can see everything and so can anyone else who subscribes.


Try getting a season ticket and watching some of these players regularly at home. Watching a player several times on TV isn’t the best venue to judge a player’s strengths or weaknesses.


I’m not sure which way is better. I think there is value in both. The cool thing with MiLB.tv is that I can watch every game – home and away – and rewind and watch multiple times every wind up and every swing if I so choose. Besides, I don’t need MiLB.tv or a season pass to home games to give a non-analytical answer like ‘he’s young for this level’.

Regardless, taking a poke at Lee the way John did and the way that Tim has taken shots at other paying customers is not cool IMHO.


JD….Wow…did you take that personally or what?

I guess I am off of your Christmas list now.

And, I guess you proved my point, as most prospects, in your own words fail. So being negative about them seems depressing to you, but in my eyes, it is being realistic.

So, I guess I don’t ‘get’ why you wrote this, to be honest. Unless you’re tired of me posting on here, since I am inherently negative (even though my posts seem to be looking at things realistically).

If that is the case, I will go away. I am easy to get along with.


I remember Foo!


Thanks BW. Support is always nice.


I am bullish on Tucker. But, since I am negative about EVERY prospect, per JD, I guess I should change my thinking?

Kerry Writtenhouse

It’s not that you’re negative about every prospect, but it’s about the fan in everyone of us who want to give up on a prospect or player when they have a bad game or stretch.

Take Luis Heredia for example, most readers here would have shipped him out years ago. In the bigger picture, there’s no reason to do so. Things can turn around just as they went bad years before. It doesn’t mean they will, but until you get to this point, a final decision isn’t necessary.

Like all of us, we hope they work out, but in the end, it’s a bit of a crap shoot.


Well, he’s still young for the waiver wire …..


Hurdle wanted to say, “Williams you know what I’m talking about.” But thought better. With Frazier Moroff and Kramer waiting in line after JHay it was time to push the pile. It could be really positive for Hanson if a team can give him reps. From his perspective the worst case is making it through waivers.

Randy W

It gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach when a guy like Hanson is let go. I tend to get attached to these guys, and I was really attached to Hanson. I’ve been following him for years, and his tools made him really exciting to watch, even sometimes when he wasn’t having success. It feels like one of my kids just got cut from the varsity squad.


Prospects will break your heart.


Dilson Herrera comes to mind – both were highly regarded


I HATED it when he was let go. The Asylum still needles me about it.

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop


THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments