Prospect Roundtable: Alen Hanson

Alen Hanson ranks in the top five in almost every offensive category in the South Atlantic League so far this year.

Alen Hanson is off to a great start in West Virginia. The 19 year old shortstop is currently hitting for a .400/.450/.800 line in 55 at-bats on the young season, after making the aggressive jump from the Gulf Coast League in 2011 to full season A-ball in 2012.

Heading in to Thursday’s game action, Hanson is tied for the South Atlantic League lead in home runs (4), and leads the league in hits (22) and total bases (44). He ranks in the top five in doubles (6, T-2nd), triples (2, T-4th), average (.400, T-4th), slugging percentage (.800, 3rd), and OPS (1.250, 3rd). He currently is riding a nine game hitting streak, and has at least one extra base hit in each of his last six games.

The hot start to the season, combined with his age and aggressive promotion, makes Hanson a potential breakout prospect. He was rated the 37th best prospect in the system in the 2012 Prospect Guide, mostly due to questions about whether he can remain at shortstop, and questions about his second half hitting — he had a .600 OPS in the final month and a half of the GCL season, after starting off with a 1.300 OPS in the first month.

Hanson won’t keep this pace up throughout the entire season, but if he continues to hit well, he could easily move in to the top 15 prospects list in next year’s Prospect Guide, and might even have a shot at cracking the top ten. That said, I wanted to get some outside perspective on Hanson’s hot start, seeking the opinion of people who cover prospects, but don’t cover the Pirates exclusively. I asked four prospect writers for their opinion on Hanson’s hot start, and what it means for his future outlook.

Jim Callis, Baseball America

Editor’s Note: I sent Jim an e-mail right after he answered another question about Hanson. He sent the following answer, which originally appeared in his latest Ask BA column.

Hanson earned “Helium Watch” kudos in the inaugural 2012 edition of the Prospect Hot Sheet, and he’s hitting .404/.451/.809 with four homers and four steals in 11 games. He obviously won’t keep that pace up all year, but he’s a legitimate prospect and a terrific breakout candidate.

Hanson, 19, is undersized at 5-foot-11 and 152 pounds, but he’s an athletic switch-hitter with plus speed and precocious feel at the plate. He projects as a player who will hit for average with some pop and plenty of stolen bases. The biggest knock on him is his fringy arm strength, which may necessitate a move from shortstop to second base, though he should have enough bat for either position.

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

Hanson is a talent hitter, but he’s also going to have to hit his way to the big leagues. He’s a little guy, but he makes consistently hard contact and can drive the ball, and he also has a decent approach and runs well. The issue is the defense. He’s not going to be a shortstop in the end, and he needs to improve his fundamentals at second base. Even as a second baseman, he has to keep on hitting to profile as an every day player, because there’s no such thing as a backup second baseman.

Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

I’m always one to remind people to be cautious in drawing too many conclusions after just 11 South Atlantic League games, but it’s hard not to be impressed with how Hanson has started, especially given his age and how he’s making the leap from the GCL (with a very brief stop in State College) to full-season ball. He’s ranked No. 16 on MLB.com’s Top 20 Pirates prospect list and it’s going to be clear pretty soon that he’ll need to move up if this continues. One thing that’s interesting especially so far has been his power production. I wrote in his capsule that he’ll need to add strength as he gets to higher levels and I have to wonder if he’s already on his way. Still a long way to go, but it’s an encouraging start. If he can stick at shortstop, it’s an even better development for the Pirates.

John Sickels, MinorLeagueBall.com

Hanson is certainly off to an excellent start at .404/.451/.809 through 11 games. He’s already matched his total career home run output. The big caveat of course is sample size: it is so early in the season and we have less than two weeks of games, which makes drawing any sort of firm conclusion dangerous.
That said, scouts recognized his potential going into the season. His approach to hitting and his plate discipline were considered advanced for a player his age, especially as a guy from the Dominican Republic where aggressive hackers are more common than refined hitters. He’s always shown bat speed, and the hope was that as he matured physically he would hit for more power. So far, so good, although like i said above, the sample is small.

I see two caution flags. He’s striking out once a game, a lot more than in the past. There are also questions about his defense at short and he may wind up at second base.

Overall he is a highly intriguing prospect and it will be very interesting to see if he can remain anywhere close to this hot as the season progresses.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • szielinski

    What would improve on this report is another roundtable discussion composed of  short analyses written by scouts that have seen Hanson player a few games or more.

    One point I’d make: Hanson’s fast start in 2012 erases some of the doubts caused by his 2011 late-season fade. He’s now hitting well when facing better pitchers. That’s a huge plus.

    • Lee Young

       Not really, SZ…..he started fast last year and then faded badly. If he doesn’t fade this year, then maybe we can get REALLY  excited. Because it may be that his small body wears down?

  • emjayinTN

    Alen Rery Hanson is certainly playing offense like a rising star.  Jumping a level and hitting as well as he has at age 19, and being in the Top 5 in just about every offensive category in the Sally League is nothing short of phenomenal.  How about the first 5 batters for WV

    1.  Alen Rery Hanson, Switchhitter, SS, 19, 4 HR/9 RBI, .400+
    2.  Jodanelli Carvajal, R, 2B, 20, .300+
    3.  Josh Bell, Switchhitter, OF, 19, .300
    4.  Jose Osuna, R, 1B, 19, .270
    5.  Gregory Polanco, L, OF, 20, 4HR/12 RBI, .300+

    Except for Josh Bell, the other 4 are guys the Pirates found on the International Market – great move to improve the facility in the DR, and expand the dollars for International scouting and signings.  Starling Marte will be our first to hit the majors, and then it could be Hanson, Polanco, Osuna, or Heredia.

    • http://twitter.com/rinsana11 Ross

      polanco and bell arent battting .300+ just to let you know. dont want to burst your bubble. but Hanson, Carvajal, and Osuna are

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Dimmick/100000318490900 Steve Dimmick

    just reading his stats make me want to go to WV to watch!  That team seems to be exciting if you’re a Pirates fan.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OGCKUSO5MA5VUCJHW2YSJ2K3TM Bob

    I am less excited about his potential now that I know he probably doesn’t have the skills to play SS at major league level.  When will we find a SS that does have the ability to play in majors?
    d’Arnaud – no
    Mercer – maybe
    Holt – no
     

    • http://twitter.com/rinsana11 Ross

      you are already giving up on d’Arnaud?? last year he was solid defensively (albeit, not amazing) but seemed to strike out too much in the role that he’s in and the position he plays. you would expect shortstops to make frequent contact with the ball and put it in play more often that not. but can you blame the guy, considering he was playing his first bunch of major league games during a pretty important run the pirates were on. he only appeared in 48 games and 143 at bats so thats a small sample size to just bash a guy on. all he needs to do is improve his approach at the plate and put the ball in play more often and his speed will allow him to get on more

      • Lee Young

         solid defensively? I cringed everytime a ball was hit his way. Even WHEN he fielded it, his arm was scattershot.

        jmho