Hanson looks like the only sure stolen bse threat for the Pirates in the near future (Photo credit: David Hague)

Alen Hanson Could Play in Pittsburgh in 2015

Last week, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a switch, moving shortstop Alen Hanson over to second base. On Sunday, Neal Huntington said that Hanson was moved to second base to be Major League ready to help the team in 2015.

Hanson does have the defensive skills to be a shortstop, but needs some work at the position to add consistency. The emergence of Jordy Mercer over the last year, along with Mercer’s improved defense this year, means that the Pirates don’t have to rely on Hanson as a shortstop. They can move him to second base, hope his defense is better at the position, and fast track the bat to the majors.

“With Jordy and with Neil and with Josh, we’ve got some depth up the middle,” Huntington said. “What we wanted to do with Alen was give him some refresher course at second base and put him in a position where he could help us maybe sooner than later at second or short if we had an injury next year. He could be able to come up and play a position comfortably or come up and provide us with a spark off the bench.”

Hanson would definitely be an upgrade over the middle infield depth the Pirates currently have. Michael Martinez is their current backup in the majors, with Clint Barmes currently on the disabled list. They’ve been active on the waiver wire, picking up Dean Anna — who was recently outrighted to Triple-A — along with yesterday’s addition of Tommy Field. They like Robert Andino’s defense in Triple-A. Chase d’Arnaud was formerly a middle infield option, but it seems like the Pirates don’t see him that way anymore, as he’s been playing the outfield this year.

None of these guys are more than Triple-A depth, with the upside of being a backup to your backup middle infielder. Meanwhile, Hanson’s upside is a starter in the majors, and the potential with his bat could make him a starter at either middle infield position.

With the injury history to Neil Walker, it’s almost a certainty that Hanson would have an opportunity to join the Pirates as an injury replacement next year. The struggles from Pedro Alvarez this year, combined with Josh Harrison’s emergence, will create an interesting story line over the off-season about who to play at third base. I could see one of Walker or Harrison playing third to start the year, with the other playing second, and Alvarez playing first base. If there’s an injury to Walker or Harrison, that would open the door for Hanson to come up.

The potential long-term impact here involves Walker. He’s under control for two more seasons beyond the 2014 season. If Harrison continues to play well, and if Hanson comes up and does well in the majors next year, that would make Walker expendable. If Hanson comes up and struggles, that would create a bigger need to keep Walker around. Over the weekend I wrote about how the Pirates don’t have to rush a decision to extend Walker. I think Hanson will be a big factor in determining whether Walker is still with the Pirates beyond the 2016 season.

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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 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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  • Leefoo Rug Bug

    Why extend someone who seems to live on the DL?

    • jaygray007

      not to mention that he is a 2b that is 6’3″, 210 lbs, and… whether it be a product of small sample or not… has already seen a dip in his defensive metrics in this – his 28 yr old year. not a lot of 34 year old, 6-3, 210 lb 2b running around.

      Any Walker extension would HAVE to be done with the intention of a move to 3b. IMO.

      And i’ll just add this on for fun….. or move him back to catcher :)

      • Tony Ventimiglio

        He could never survive as a catcher with his injury history. It is much harder on the body than playing 2nd

        • jaygray007

          yeah i know. just said it for fun.

          • emjayinTN

            Hanson is our future switchhitting leadoff hitter, with Polanco batting second, followed by ‘Cutch and then the 1B flavor of the day which I think should be Neil Walker. As a Catcher he learned how to block and is used to seeing and catching short hops. At 6’3″ 210, he fits the physical mold of a big target at 1B. He is growing into a 20-25 HR/yr switchhitter which mitigates the need to have 2 players to play 1B. Savings in salaries. Enough with the DL list thing – I think he had one earlier due to having an emergency appendectomy, and now back spasms. At 1B he should be a 140 game per year guy, which is just about his average for games played in his 3 full seasons. He should make 130-135 this year.

            • Andrew

              Neil Walker has a career .077 ISO vs LHP and 5 home runs. Gaby Sanchez has a .177 ISO this season and it seems most Pirates’ fans want him jettisoned

    • indybucfan

      110 (started inAAA), 159, 129, 133, 97 this year so far. That’s hardly living on the DL! While I’m not a Walker apologist, he has been for the most part, the 2nd best hitter on this team. I don’t feel they need to extend him at this point. I wouldn’t be opposed if the price was right.

      • Matt Beam

        agree, but he has a history of back issues, which don’t tend to get better with age… I love what he’s become after looking like he might turn into a AAAA player, but I would not extend Neil under any circumstance

        • indybucfan

          Agree completely on the back. As I said, I wouldn’t unless the price is right.

          Lee, you stated “he lives on the DL”, your words, not mine. Those games played totals don’t suggest living there. He’s not Ripkenesque, but he’s not the total opposite either.

      • Lee Young

        Indy….you just proved my point….only one full season out of 4.

  • rareglass

    Never rely on a head case. See Jose Tabata

    • bucsws2014

      Starlin Castro, Carlos Gomez and Yasiel Puig seem to be doing OK.

    • jaygray007

      we don’t know if Hanson is a headcase and we dont know if Tabata is still a headcase and we definitely don’t know if Tabata failed because he may or may not still be a headcase.

      i think it’s more likely that Tabata is 4 years older than he says he is and just fell off a cliff.

      • leowalter

        It would surprise me of any of those negative comments come from anyone who has actually seen Hanson actually play jaygray.

  • Lee Young

    I think they should DL Walker now and bring up Hanson for 2 weeks. They might catch lightning in a bottle? They sure won’t with Martinez/Nix.

    • leowalter

      Normally I would have had some negative comment about that suggestion Lee, but,particularly in the case of Martinez, you might be right. That poor guy just can not hit.

    • S Brooks

      C’mon Lee, you’re better than that. The downside of having Hanson fail miserably in front of hundreds of thousands of fans (over 2 weeks) and millions of viewers is too great to justify the slight chance he would break out. It could kill the kid’s confidence and set him back development wise.

      He’s in AA for a reason, and he’s no Manny Machado or Yasiel Puig, either.

      • http://pbsacademyorlando.com Slugger14

        Hansen has NO business being mentioned in a “call up”! Have you seen him play lately? Forget about his offense- a lot of leg out base hits. Can’t bunt your way to the next level. (32) errors- com’mon man! How many last season? Give the guy his props- he can run! Everyday hustle- different animal. Bad body language following failure- very prevalent! Not even close to being ready for the BIG BOYS! Seen the Curve play a lot. Some of you guys are just plain- “out of your minds”. Hansen needs to stay where he is!

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