Prospect Notebook: Hanson Over-Shadowing Polanco, Kingham Rebounding

Earlier this week, Keith Law mentioned that he would have Alen Hanson as a top five prospect in the system. Law has been one of the few who gives Hanson a strong chance at sticking at shortstop, which explains the ratings. A shortstop prospect with Hanson’s hitting skills and speed would not only be one of the top prospects in the system, but one of the top prospects in baseball.

Last month I did a prospect roundtable on Hanson, and it was almost universal that he would have to move to second base eventually in his career.

The difference between a shortstop prospect and a second base prospect is pretty substantial. Nothing changes with Hanson’s bat, although he loses a ton of value moving to the other side of the bag. There’s also more that is expected out of Hanson at second base than at shortstop, since more of his value depends on his bat.

Hanson’s breakout season at the plate has not only propelled his prospect status, but it has also overshadowed a breakout season from another top international prospect. Gregory Polanco is hitting for a .282/.335/.465 line in 177 at-bats this year, with a system leading eight homers. He’s been pretty consistent this year, with a .286 average and an .838 OPS in April, and a .279 average and a .768 OPS in May. The May numbers have dropped due to a cold streak over the last week.

By comparison, Alen Hanson hasn’t been consistent. He was on fire in April, with a .410 average and a 1.137 OPS. So far in May he has a .256 average and a .791 OPS. Polanco also doesn’t have the same questions surrounding his defense. He’s got the skills to provide strong defense in center field, giving him some added value to go with his bat. Even if he has to move to a corner, he’s got the potential to hit for power to justify the spot. He’s got a tall, projectable frame, with a power increase this year after adding some muscle over the off-season.

I’m not sure that I’d have Hanson as a top five prospect in the system. I’m not as sold on him sticking at shortstop, which lowers his value in my book. I do know that wherever I’d have Hanson, I’d also have Polanco close by.

Kingham Rebounding From Slow Start

Nick Kingham had an interesting start to the 2012 season. In his first two outings with the West Virginia Power, the right-hander combined to allow nine earned runs in three innings. In both starts Kingham pitched a scoreless first inning, then gave up all of his damage in the second inning.

The right-hander rebounded in his next start, allowing one run in four innings. That was the start of a run for Kingham.┬áSince the first two starts, ┬áhe has allowed a 3.16 ERA in 37 innings, with a 34:7 K/BB ratio. He’s been on fire in his last three starts, putting up a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings, with a 17:1 K/BB ratio.

Kingham entered the season ranked as our tenth best prospect in the system. He was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and signed to a $480 K bonus. He’s shown impressive stuff, with a fastball that ranges anywhere from 88-95 MPH, usually sitting 91-94 MPH in the first few frames, before dropping down in the 88-91 MPH range after three or four innings.

He throws a curveball and a changeup in addition to his fastball. The changeup is his best off-speed pitch, and his curve has good break, with the potential to be an above average pitch. Both pitches have been inconsistent over the last year due to the focus on his fastball command. When they’re both on, Kingham is a very dominant pitcher, which is what we’ve been seeing over the last few outings.

Allie Sprains Ankle

Stetson Allie, who has been working on his command in extended Spring Training, suffered a sprained left ankle a few weeks ago. Allie has been limited due to the injury, but should be back to full health fairly soon.

The right-hander was sent to extended Spring Training to work on his command, after posting a 54.00 ERA in 0.2 innings, spread out over two different appearances. Allie walked eight and struck out one combined.

It’s still not determined whether Allie will return to West Virginia or go to State College when he is ready to return. Extended Spring Training ends when the short season leagues begin, which is on June 18th.

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

    A second baseman who generates OPS >.900, steals bases and can field is a very valuable player. If the 2012 Pirates have taught us anything, it has taught us to properly value offensive production. I’d not cry over a Hanson move to second base; I’d certainly cry if his offensive production collapsed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      Well the thought of the offensive numbers dropping is really the concern now isn’t it?

      If he were to continue on and in 2 or 3 years is still hitting .340 and stealing bases with a little pop in his bat, they could put him anywhere. They key to his development is the Pirates organization obtaining that highly coveted, 2-way shortstop.

      The truth is, at this point in his career, the projection of where he’ll end up on defense is incredibly important about how we should look at him in the now. If he really only projects as a 2nd baseman, then there’s no reason to get as excited about his numbers in low-A. Either way it just seems to be a waiting game at this point.

      Just like keeping a guy in the rotation instead of the bullpen, even if he really projects as such; at this point in his career they don’t stand to lose much by keeping him where he’s at for now. Also, much like moving from the rotation to the bullpen, what is there to learn once you move over to second that you didn’t already know playing shortstop for so long? More than likely it would just be a feeling kind of thing, which wouldn’t require much time to reacclimate

      • szielinski

        “The truth is, at this point in his career, the projection of where he’ll
        end up on defense is incredibly important about how we should look at
        him in the now. If he really only projects as a 2nd baseman, then
        there’s no reason to get as excited about his numbers in low-A.”

        I’d say that we should get excited about his numbers in -A because his numbers are exciting. He’s 19 and a dominating hitter playing in a full season league. That’s exciting in itself.

        • Lee Young

          I’ll get excited once he starts doing it in AA. That’ll be the true test. I am hopeful, but……….

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

          I’m not saying there’s no reason to be happy that he’s doing well. But there is a big difference in how to perceive the offensive numbers depending on which position he ends up at. It’s only WV, in low-A, all he’s really proven in that he’s inconsistent and when he’s hot can hit fastballs. I doubt other organizations handle their pitchers in drastically different ways from what the Pirates do. Taillon had a 4.50+ ERA in that league last year because all he did was throw fastballs.