Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #4 – Alen Hanson

The Pirates Prospects 2013 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features over 250 prospect reports, the 2013 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Jin-De Jhang, C

19. Andrew Oliver, LHP

18. Vic Black, RHP

17. Adrian Sampson, RHP

16. Wyatt Mathisen, C

15. Bryan Morris, RHP

14. Justin Wilson, LHP

13. Tony Sanchez, C

12. Dilson Herrera, 2B

11. Clay Holmes, RHP

10. Nick Kingham, RHP

9. Kyle McPherson, RHP

8. Tyler Glasnow, RHP

7. Barrett Barnes, OF

6. Josh Bell, OF

5. Luis Heredia, RHP

We continue the countdown with the number 4 prospect, Alen Hanson.

Alen Hanson

Alen Hanson

4. Alen Hanson, SS

Hanson first entered the prospect radar in 2011 when he made the jump to the GCL after one season in the DSL. His hitting drew praise from scouts, and impressed the Pirates enough that they gave him an aggressive push in 2012. The Pirates jumped Hanson to West Virginia to start the 2012 season, joining several other prospects who received the same advanced push.

Hanson responded quickly to the promotion, putting up some amazing numbers in April. That put him on the radar for national attention, and led to him becoming one of the biggest breakout players in all of minor league baseball. He hit for a .410 average and a 1.129 OPS in 105 at-bats in April. The only month he dropped below an .800 OPS was in July, when he had a .260 average and a .752 OPS. He bounced back in August with a .320 average and an .898 OPS. The strong finish was great to see. Hanson faded in the second half of the 2011 season, which now looks like it was due to a finger injury. He had a hip flexor injury in July, which could have led to the poor month in 2012.

The big question surrounding Hanson is his defense. He spent all of his time at shortstop, but there are questions whether he can stick at the position. He’s got a fringy arm which has enough strength to stay at short, but might be better for second. He’s got good range, but looks raw with his glove work and foot work. That led to 40 errors in 103 games in 2012.

There’s no question that Hanson has the hitting skills to make it to the majors. He’s a switch hitter with great bat speed and a lot of power for any position, much less from the middle infield. He has a good K/BB ratio, which is rare to see from an international hitter. He also has a ton of speed, helping him to get extra base hits, and making him a threat in the running game.

Hanson doesn’t have a lot of competition in the system at shortstop, so he should get every chance to stick at the position. The majority opinion is that he’ll eventually have to move to second, although there are some who feel he can stick at short. Even if he moves to second, his bat keeps him as a top prospect. He should open the 2013 season in Bradenton, with a big focus on the defensive side of the game.

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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, 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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  • gorillagogo

    If Hanson has success in Bradenton, do you think they’ll move him up to AA this season? Or are they more likely to go one level per year with him?

    • Tim Williams

      It’s hard to say. They don’t really have much precedent to go on here. The only young international hitter they’ve had in that situation was Starling Marte. He went down mid-season with a hamate injury, so we didn’t get to see what they would do in that situation.

  • kevin21

    40 errors in 103 games is a lot. But I see that he didn’t let that affect him. Who knows, Do I dare say, if the errors decrease, will his hitting raise??? I know errors can have huge impact with players taking them to the plate.

    • Happydude1

      This is undoubtedly an overused example, but Derek jeter had 56 errors at 19 in the SALLY league, and he turned out to be a serviceable defensive shortstop in his prime. I think scouts are more concerned with things like arm strength, hands, and range when projecting a 19 year old SS than they are with fielding numbers.

      • emjayinTN

        And, Elvis Andrus as an 18 year old with 32 E’s in 106 games and then 25 E’s in 98 games the following year. Hanson needs to stay at SS for as long as possible, but the Pirates have some very young talent at that position such as Dilson Herrera, and the HS kid from Florida that we drafted last year. Is it a good time to hire a middle infield coach to spend more time with these kids?

        • iChuck33

          I think dilson played mostly second this past year, the high school kid max moroff played short

    • hunter

      I think the bigger thing for him is the errors decreased as the year progressed. He seemed much more stable defensively in the 2nd half.

  • whiteAngus

    the top prospects list is getting more predictable now. so, Tim, how about throwing us all a curve, pun intended. put Tim Alderson at the #1 spot and drop Cole altogether. I would love to see the comments following this.

    • Tim Williams

      Yeah, kind of anti-climatic at the end, since there’s a consensus top six. When I was setting up the articles for this week, I was wondering if we’d have a surprise next year. Cole won’t have prospect eligibility. I’m guessing Taillon will still be there. If Hanson and/or Polanco carry their success over to the 2013 season, and make the jump to AA, there could be an interesting conversation for the #1 spot.

  • Mark Busch

    Tim, I’m interested to hear why you rated Polanco ahead of Hanson. The two had virtually identical slash lines last year. Hanson has question marks defensively, but he’s at shortstop for now. Second base is still a lot more valuable than corner OF. And Hanson was a full year younger than Polanco last season … that’s gotta count for something.

    The only red flag I see is Hanson’s K rate was higher than Polanco’s (19% vs. 13%). Was that the deciding factor? Their BB rates were virtually identical as well.

    • Tim Williams

      That will be answered in Polanco’s report.

      The rankings aren’t my own, but a group ranking. That said, I did have Polanco ahead of Hanson in my own rankings.

  • leadoff

    I think Cole has a lot of people in fantasy land. He does have the talent necessary to be a super star, but he needs time, if they bring him up this year IMO, that will be a huge mistake, I think he will get bombed, he is only what 22.
    IMO, he will have to be ready before he sees the majors on my team. As far as I am concerned the press can talk about the Pirates slow development process (not really true) all they want, I would never throw a valuable commodity like Cole to the wolves, I think they brought Alvarez up too early also.

    • Mark Busch

      Isn’t being “ready” more about Minor League results and not a player’s age? Cutch was 22 when he was promoted to The Show. Cole has pretty much performed as expected since being taken #1 overall. If he keeps it up at AAA for a few months, why shouldn’t Cole make it to Pittsburgh next summer?

      With Pedro there were some red flags regarding his K rate. But I don’t believe Pedro was rushed. I believe he is the type of player who will always have a high K rate, and his value will come from his power. His weakness was identifying and hitting Major Leauge-quality breaking stuff. I think he needed to make that adjustment at the Major League level.

      With Cole, what red flag would you be pointing to? To date, his results have been very good, his peripherals have been very good, his mechanics/stamina have all been very good. You keep Cole in Indy for a while if he struggles … but right now it appears as if he’s on a career trajectory that has him earning playing time in Pittsburgh next season.

      • leadoff

        Cole has only had one full year in the minors, still has to learn how to pitch.
        Cutch was drafted in 2005, came up in 2009 and spent 4 years in the minors, Cole probably will not spend 4 years in the minors. I have not seen any kind of domination out of Cole in the minors to date, his numbers are okay, but nothing terrific. I guess what I see is that Cole can’t blow people away with his hard stuff like some of the hard throwers can, therefore he has to locate his breaking stuff very well, in other words he has to pitch, pitching is a time learned craft.

        • Mark Busch

          Tons of great pitching prospects come to the Majors and pitch “well”, then over a few years they learn how to become aces.

          Cole had a 2.80 ERA, 9.3 K rate and a 3.1 BB rate. That is pretty dominant. What were your expectations?

          Incidentally, his MiLB numbers are almost identical to former #1 pick David Price, who had a 2.69 ERA, 9.0 K rate and a 3.1 BB rate.

          • leadoff

            My expectations are that Cole will get hit around somewhat when they bring him up, I don’t expect him to dominate right away, might even be the 4th or 5th best pitcher in the rotation after he arrives, of course I don’t expect him to stay that way, I think in time his talent will show through.

            • whiteAngus

              thats more than acceptable for his expectations. he isnt Strasburg and we shant expect him to be.

        • hunter

          There are tons of examples of great college pitchers blowing through the minors and being just fine. It depends on the individual but I think after seeing how long Marte was left in Indy that they will be patient if they feel it is necessary. If he has made adjustments they wanted to see then I see no reason to baby him.

        • IC Bob

          Its not like Cole was pitching against High School players at UCLA in the past and with the Pirate way teams sat on his fastball thus the above average numbers at Bradenton and Alatoona. I do think Cole will show us when he is ready. I hope its early this year but it could very well be September or next year.

        • whiteAngus

          cutch didnt go to college, Cole did. and cole faced really good competition as well.
          cole’s numbers are more than okay. and also remember this: he gets stronger as the game gets longer. hes a legit #1 prospect.
          that being said, i understand you wanting him to get more seasoning. the Bucs wont bring him up early anyway so this discussion isnt really going anywhere.

          • Mark Busch

            Cole’s stamina is Verlander-esque (no jinx obv). He might not miss as many bats as Felix Hernandez, but Cole could end up being one of the biggest work horses in baseball. That part really excites me about his potential.

        • NastyNate82

          You’re also comparing a HS player vs. a college player. Big difference there. His big issue (as it was at times in college) is that it seems his command strays and he gets hit more than a guy with his stuff should be. I think he’s going to have some growing pains. Which is why he won’t be up yet, but he has showed signs that he’s going to be pretty good. As WhAngus says, he’s not Strasburg, and those types are rare.

  • Brian

    So I’m gonna quess Cole is #1, Taillon is #2, and Polanco is #3? Where is Alex Dickerson?

    • Lee Young

      Not trying to be smarta$$ or anything like that, but if you buy Tim’s book you would know where he is.

      One hint: It isn’t good.

      Tim’s nice enough to cover the top 20, but there is so much more in his prospect book. I reference it constantly.

      • Tim Williams

        I feel like eventually you’re going to start asking me for commission.

        • NastyNate82

          Not a finder’s fee but…reference fee?

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