Pirates Moving Alen Hanson to Second Base

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be moving shortstop Alen Hanson to second base, Pirates Prospects has learned. Hanson has committed 29 errors this season in 100 games at the shortstop position, after committing 32 in 127 games last year.

There have been questions surrounding his defensive play at shortstop ever since he started hitting well at West Virginia in 2012. Hanson has the range and quickness to play the position, plus he has an arm that is considered average. The problems at the position have been with his consistency. He will look great on a play up the middle, then boot an easy ground ball, or throw a ball away when he has too much time.

Larry Broadway, the Pittsburgh Pirates Director of Minor League Operations, said that this move was to increase Hanson’s versatility.

“This is about increasing Alen’s versatility,” Broadway said. “We still believe he can play shortstop and believe he will play shortstop for us at some point in the future. Adding this dimension to his game will give him additional opportunity to impact our organization at the Major League level when he is ready.”

To be fair, the Pirates have made similar claims about other players when they’ve moved off a position. This happened at the shortstop position with Jordy Mercer, who moved off the position to give Chase d’Arnaud playing time, only to eventually move back and become the starting shortstop in Pittsburgh. In this case, it’s hard to think that this isn’t related to Hanson’s struggles at the position. Mercer didn’t have the same issues at the shortstop position, and the Pirates moved him to give some playing time and defensive work to d’Arnaud, who was on the same prospect level at the time. Altoona has Gift Ngoepe as a possible shortstop, but Ngoepe is one of the best defenders in the system, and doesn’t need the work at the position. Meanwhile, Hanson obviously needs work at the shortstop position, and needs that more than work at second base.

Second base isn’t foreign to Hanson. He played there briefly in Winter Ball this off-season and he played 53 games there between the DSL in 2010 and the GCL/State College in 2011. Hanson’s bat will still be valuable at second base, but a little less valuable than what he can do with the same numbers at the shortstop position. The Pirates don’t desperately need him to be a shortstop, since Mercer has shown improved defense this year, and good hitting in the majors the last two years, outside of an early season slump this year. While Hanson isn’t needed at shortstop, I don’t think Mercer’s playing really had an impact in this decision.

One concern with Hanson is that the move to second base won’t solve his issues. As noted above, he’s not having issues from a skill level. A lot of his issues are on routine plays. Second base is easier to play than shortstop, but if his specific issues aren’t skill related, then there’s the risk that he could carry his inconsistent play over to the other side of the bag.

It’s also possible that this move could be the wake up call that Hanson needs. He’s been benched twice this season in Altoona. He was benched for a week in June for unknown disciplinary reasons, then was removed early from a game and benched for two more games in July for not running out a pop up. It’s entirely possible that Hanson could move back to the shortstop position if he starts showing consistency, and leaves these issues behind him.

Hanson left Thursday night’s Altoona game early with a slight hand injury and had it wrapped in ice after the game. He wasn’t  in Friday’s lineup and is considered day-to-day at this point. He is hitting .280/.320/.441 in 101 games this season, with ten homers and 19 stolen bases.

John Dreker contributed to this report.

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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  • leowalter

    Great move ! No matter what they tell you though, he does NOT have the arm to be a MLB SS.

    • Lee Young

      Keith Law seems to think so. And, I’ve seen him make some nice throws, too.

      • leowalter

        He does not charge ground balls and then release quick enough for a MLB SS on top of not having the arm strength to make throws from deep in the hole. Gary Greene,who is the Orginization’s infield guy,as much as said it all out loud last night on the Curve Pre Game show. I probably have seen Hanson play 10 times as many games as Keith Law,and I am certain Greene has seen and analyzed his play a lot more than me. In other words,Keith Law isn’t the final authority he would like to project himself to be.

  • rickster

    Hi Tim/John. Do you think NH has added enough quality depth up the middle (jacoby/turner) to support the big league club, especially with the improved defense of jordy or should middle infield still remain a priority?

    • Y2JGQ2

      I think middle infield has been addressed- which is surprising for me. I have been crooning for 2 years for us to focus on shortstop, and while i’m not even interested in Tucker, I think with Gift for defense and Jordy as an everyday SS for the next few years we will be fine. Hanson should be able to play better at 2nd and can take over for Neil after free agency. I think we’ll be fine

    • unfurious

      I think that he will continue to focus on premium positions in the draft: SP, C, CF, SS. A bad shortstop with a great bat can move anywhere on the field. A corner infielder who falls short anywhere is kinda screwed.

  • Sean Epstein

    Does this have any effect on a Neil Walker extension or does it mean the team is growing more comfortable with Mercer as the SS of the future.

    • Steve Williams

      I think the latter. As for NW, there is no guarantee at all that Hanson will reach the level that NW is at now. Also there is always the possibility of NW moving back to 3B – since Pedro is probably gone or moved to 1B by 2016.

    • unfurious

      I had the same thought but I don’t think so. It’s not like Hanson is right on the MLB doorstep and he just need reps so they can get his bat in the lineup. Right now, they won’t move him off the high-value position unless it is for his development.

    • Andrew

      I’m not sure a 27 year old is the shortstop of the future.

      • piraddict

        Mercer is under the Pirates’ control until 2018. It’s like saying Cutch is the Pirates’ CF of the future. He’s got the position until someone better comes along.

        • Andrew

          That’s fine, it is just when I see position of the future I think of a player projected to be at least league average.

          • Lukas Sutton

            Mercer is statistically above average on offense and defense. So its your eyes that seem to think Mercer isnt league average. He clearly has the hit tool to stick, and in depth look at his defensive stats show at least an average guy.

            • Andrew

              No need for the ad hominem. Mercer has been worth 1.8 WAR/600 PAs so far, so he brushing average but much of that value is tied up in hitting 123% better than league average against LHP last season.

              Defensive numbers have him rated either +5.3 runs or -4.6 runs over a season, and it is not a large
              sample. For his career he is about 20% worse than league average against RHP and isn’t really improving. He is 27, these are peak years, it is hard to project significant improvement. I don’t see a consistent +2.0 WAR/600 here.

              I’m fine with his contributions this season and fine with him playing SS next year. My point is when penciling a guy into a spot for the future I’m looking for average to above average production.

              • freddylang

                For what it’s worth Mercer has been a 3.0 WAR player not a 2.0 WAR player per 600 plate appearances for his career which spans 246 games. He is 28 this month so the upside is pretty much gone although his defense has appeared to improve a fair amount this year. He’s a good and unspectacular winning ballplayer. He reminds me of Jay Bell a little.

                • Andrew

                  I’m using Fangraphs WAR, I think Baseball Reference use DRS for the fielding portion of their measure, DRS rates him a +5.3 runs so that explains the difference. His defense is certainty improved from last year, but defense usually peak early and even if you split the difference you are getting a league average defense, Mercer will need to continue hitting at his current pace.

                  • Y2JGQ2

                    why wouldn’t he continue hitting at this current pace? He shouldn’t see any drop in production for 3-4 years at least, and we wouldn’t be keeping him (or mostly any player) longer than that anyways

                  • Lee Young

                    Andrew…For comparison, Pirate fans LOVE Marte, yet he is only at 2.2 WAR.

                    Mercer is fine at SS.

                    • Andrew

                      Yeah, my whole point was going forward or “of the future,” which I’ve failed to make coherently in 500 words, I’ll call it a day.

                    • rickster

                      For what it’s worth I’m with you andrew.. mercer is a descent enough shortstop.. if I hear future ss/of/3b though I think potential all star type player, especially at a premium position..

              • Lukas Sutton

                And he gives you average to above average production if he continues current pace from his first year and a half. He can be a very decent SS for his prime years (which include the next 2-3) thus allowing plenty of time for low level guys to get here.

              • Y2JGQ2

                You still don’t make any sense. You can’t use WAR to see whether or not he is league average unless you are comparing his WAR vs. every other starting shortstop, not vs. the league in general. League average would be a 15th place amonst 30 shortstops, where is he?

                • Andrew

                  WAR has a positional adjustment, Mercer is credited for playing shortstop and 2.0 WAR/600 is considered average. Fielding numbers are for shortstops. If you look at WAR totals Mercer is 18th of 24 qualified SS.

                  The average shortstop hits about 10-12% below overall league average, for his career Mercer is wRC+ of 97, so only 3% below average, but much of that is due to a .300 point OPS split. So far he has a 77 wRC+ against RHP. So what I mean is he needs to continue to hit left handed pitch at his 166 wRC+ pace, and I’m skeptical that he can do that.

                  I just don’t think a player who it took until his age 27 season to hold down a regular spot should be penciled in at short for next 3-4 years after of 700 at bats. The Pirates aren’t the Cardinals they don’t have a history of developing non-tool, fringe prospects into major league regulars, so yes the bar is a little higher. I’ll gladly be wrong, I’m not saying Mercer is some bum, he is okay player especially at the league minimum, my only point was when I hear of the future I think young player that you consider buying out a free agent season or two and I don’t consider Mercer that.

                  • Y2JGQ2

                    Well I appreciate the additional information. I see where you are coming from, we just differ on how we look at the exact same situation. His WAR can be negatively affected by his horrible start to this year just like it can be helped by the splits. In reality, there are splits, and bad months, so I guess we are both wrong. I agree with the fact that he isn’t going to win awards, but after seasons of barely ML talent starting at shortstop, Mercer is a breath of fresh air. that, but whom are we really comparing Mercer to, last time i checked, The cleveland indians aren’t begging to get rid of Jay Bell Jr. anytime soon in a trade for Felix Fermin

                    • Y2JGQ2

                      I have strong belief that Mercer will play steady, low error shortstop, and be about league average defensively- offensively I fully expect him to be between .720-.780 OPS over the next few years. At shortstop, i’m content with that production

          • Y2JGQ2

            andrew, what are you talking about. What do you consider league average? Have you looked at the shortstops starting in the major leagues?

            • S Brooks

              Not defending Andrew’s premise, because I think Mercer is absolutely playable at SS through his controllable years, but he would know that “average” WAR is 2.0, regardless of position. The positional adjustments more or less even that out.

              • Y2JGQ2

                I don’t really go for the “positional adjustments” thing. I was looking for ranking at shortstop and evidently thats 18th out of 24, so that would definitely be below average. Average is 12, or 13th. You have to compare the player to the contemporary options in the league, not vs. a pie in the sky. I’d like to see where he ranks if you remove april and may of this year from the equation and start with when he took over the job last year until now minus april and may. Now I know that’s skewing the numbers, but i think its what you will get from him long term, and I would bet that would put him to average or slightly above average…..but i could be wrong

      • Y2JGQ2

        of the present and forseeable future would be a better statement

  • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

    #FreeGiftNgoepe*

    * With the purchase of one regularly-priced Ngoepe.

    • piraddict

      I’d love to see NGOEPE up in Barmes’ position on the roster if his hitting can justify elevation to AAA and beyond.

      • Doug

        Ngoepe is a career .225 hitter in AA. Don’t count on him making the majors.

        • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

          Knock knock.
          Who is there?
          It’s me, Felix Fermin. I’ve brought my friends Rafael Belliard and Mark Lemke. We need to have a talk with you.

          • Y2JGQ2

            Sorry…..Sammy Khalifa is visiting from Hawaii, can you come back tomorrow? I heard Steve Jeltz and Rafael Ramirez are throwing a surprise party for Jose Uribe on the other side of town, you guys should go check it out!

  • Jeff Rhodes

    Actually, I was thinking this could be the first of one or maybe two corresponding moves in the offseason. Maybe we could move Walker to first next year, where his newfound power and switch-hitting ability would solve a longstanding problem. Or maybe Walker moves back to third, where he was regarded as an excellent defender in the minors, and Pedro moves to first.

    It’s obviously asking a lot to expect Walker, who’s having a career year, to switch positions, but he’s a team player and people change positions for the good of the team all the time. Since Hanson is a natural leadoff hitter, it benefits the lineup that way, too. As for Alvarez, I’ve reached the point where I no longer care what he or his agent think. It’s the health of the fans on the first base line I’m worried about.

    • Rick

      Here”s a solution for the Alvarez throws. Use the pitcher as a relay man!

    • pilbobuggins

      Interesting points, I agree with all of them as possibilities, and I share the same concern about the fans beside first base as well, the situation with pedro would be laughable if it were not costing the team games.

      • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

        Next season: Walker to 3B, JayHay at 2B, Pedro at 1B.
        2016: Walker at 3B, JayHay at 2B, Bell at 1B
        Pedro will DH for the Yanks.

        • Y2JGQ2

          Nathan- I think the key here is…….what’s an overall better defensive situation for the team, walker and 2nd harrison at 3rd, or vice versa. Harrison has always been a very strong defensive 3rd baseman, way better than at 2nd, and I’m not sure Walker would provide that at this point in his career, but i guess we aren’t paid to make those decisions

        • Lee Young

          why would the Yanks want a DH with a career .745 OPS? Even in his best year, his OPS was only .770.

          Pedro hits HRs and little else.

    • pilbobuggins

      Interesting points, I agree with all of them as possibilities, and I share the same concern about the fans beside first base as well, the situation with pedro would be laughable if it were not costing the team games.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Pedro to 1st, Harrison to third, walker stays at 2ndd. That’s my prediction for next year. I doubt walker would move, but I would have no problem with it.

  • Dom DiDominic

    Kept him at SS through the July 31 deadline, so they could deal him as a SS. Now that that has passed, he should move to plans for the future.
    The way Gift has been hitting in the 2nd have is just incredible. With that glove he has a great chance to stick in the bigs.
    3B-Walker, SS-Mercer, 2B Hanson & Utl-Gift come 2016.

  • Bill

    This move looks like nothing more than a way to get Hanson to not have to think so much a free up his bat. I don’t think it has any bearing on the major league team or where they see him playing at that level. This management group does not usually switch a minor league players position based on what is happening at the major league level, when they do move a player it is due to that particular player’s skillset. This move is not connected to Neil Walker and his contract situation, that would be foolish, Walker is statistically the best offensive 2B in the NL, thinking that a kid in AA, is going to make him rush to sign an extention is downplaying the fact that Hanson in a best case is still 2 years away, and Walker is superior to him offensively.
    In the end I think this move is exactly what the Pirates said it is, just a way to make him more versatile. Just like they did with Mercer and Walker.

  • Spa City

    Alen Hanson sounds like a punk. I would rather see the Bucs trade him – even if we got only 75% of the talent in return.

    • piraddict

      I expect that that is what the Pirates will do.

      • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

        Punk? Idk.
        Young and dumb? Sure.

        I think he has ADHD and needs meds. Lack of focus on the routine. Disinterest at innappropriate times.

        • unfurious

          Or he’s just overthinking the routine plays. Maybe he just needs to do some long-division while he’s waiting on the routine ground ball to keep himself sharp.

        • szielinski

          I’ve wondered about this as well.

        • freddylang

          Maybe he has JT’s syndrome. (Jose Tabata’s) …or is JT’s syndrome the affliction where you are listed as 3 years younger than you really are?

  • pilbobuggins

    This was pretty inevitable considering his arm issues and the lack of depth at second also they have jones and tucker behind him so no lack of options at ss. What happens going forward is up to him. All in all it’s a good move by the organization.

    • unfurious

      I think it’s very telling that they waited until after the trade deadline to move him off the premium position too. Maintaining that value is the kind of shrewd that they need to be. On a much smaller scale, this is another situation where they positioned themselves as best they could but probably didn’t get their favored result. But just like the batters, they have to take the best approach they can and see how it plays out.

  • freddylang

    Hanson is gonna be a UTIL next year anyways if he makes it to the majors. I would get him some time at 3B and LF too if I could. The errors he makes at short could be a sign he will make errors at 2B also so with the Pirates lineup set and his issues he may be playing everywhere for a year or two. Let Gift get some reps and Hanson can get his mind off of SS for a few months at least.

    • Lukas Sutton

      Making him a util at this point would waste a good bat. By the time Hanson arrives Pedro is likely to be either gone or at 1B, meaning there is a good chance Walker slides to 3rd. Leaving a hole at 2B for a quality hitting guy like him. The errors he makes at SS are because he doesnt have a great arm. Walker wasnt a guy that had great range, and he is a very capable 2Bmen. Hanson has good range and would be a very good 2Bmen if his hitting translates. His bat looks near ML ready, so his biggest problem is arm (which the move largely erases) and his attention on routine plays. He has shown great ability to make the tough plays, but struggles with the easy plays at times. Get the kid focused and he is a fast plus bat 2Bmen who is very young.

      • freddylang

        You forgot Josh Harrison will be at 2B. There is nothing wrong with Hanson breaking in being a Util…just like Harrison and Mercer did.

        • Lukas Sutton

          You forgot that Harrison at 2B makes 0 sense and is void of any proof backing it. Harrison is clearly the 3Bmen until Pedro figures out his yips, and if he doesnt going into next year you have Harrison at 3rd and Pedro at 1st or traded. Hanson wont be here next year anyway. Mercer broke in as a backup SS that played 2B out of need, so you are making negative sense at this point. Mercer is a SS next year, Walker is a 2Bmen, Harrison is at 3rd unless Pedro turns it around. Allows them all to play the position they field the best at, which we should want. Hanson would take over for Walker once Pedro leaves and Walker moves to either 3rd or 1st in a few years.

    • Y2JGQ2

      you won’t see hanson in 2015 unless its september 1

  • derekbellstutu

    I wonder how receptive Pedro will be to moving to 1B. Moving from 3B will decrease Pedro’s value on the open market when he becomes a free agent. I can see Scott Boras getting involved in that discussion. That being said, I think it would be the best decision for the Pirates moving Pedro to 1B. The Pirates should either move Pedro to 1B or to a new team next offseason.

    • unfurious

      Damaging bystanders with throws toward 1st base will hurt him in free agency more than proving he can “also play” first base. Until Boras can use his Jedi powers to fix Pedro’s yips, he has no leg to stand on. That said, Pirates have a motivation to keep him at 3rd too. It increases his trade value. I’m thinking that time at first may actually help Pedro take a break from his problems. It would be nice to have a plan B for him that you could implement from game to game. I just don’t think that now is the time.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Scott Boras has no say so in the matter, he can GFHS

  • Y2JGQ2

    I don’t think 400 games at shortstop would help, so lets go ahead and make the move, so he can learn how to play 2nd well, and not be a liability there by the time he’s needed in case Walker goes down or is traded, free agency etc. Unlike Tim, I think Mercer’s success and significantly better play at shortstop made this move for us, once the trading deadline came and Hanson wasn’t dealt as a shortstop, he likely wasn’t going to be traded and it was then time to move him to the position he will likely be playing. I would be shocked if you don’t see the same thing done with Bell during fall/winter ball

  • R Edwards

    Not surprising – I felt the Pirates were force feeding Hansen to SS – he is a second baseman. At Altoona, Gift Ngoepe was the far superior SS.

    Now, move Walker to first base next year – let Harrison play 2B until Hansen is ready.

    • Lukas Sutton

      Leaving Pedro at 3B, terrible idea! Could just as easily have Harrison take over 3B and Pedro at 1st. Allowing Harrison to play his best defensive position statistically, leave Walker as is, and take away a ton of chance for Pedro to throw the ball.

      • R Edwards

        I would be fine with that – anything to rid ourselves of Ike Davis and Sanchez platoon, while moving Alvarez off of 3B, is fine with me as well.

        • Lukas Sutton

          Funny thing about all the Ike hate, he has put up a 106 wRC+ this year. The same as…..Pedro Alvarez. They have been rather similar offensive players this year with Pedro having more power and Ike getting on base more. Pedro is the better option going forward.

          • R Edwards

            I don’t hate Ike Davis, I hated that we traded what we did to get him – when it quite obvious that he was likely to be let go by the Mets. If any of his stats are similar to Alvarez, its an indictment against Alvarez and not a positive for Davis.

            • Lukas Sutton

              It shows both are average. Ike gets on base and isnt a terrible defender at all time, Pedro is a power hitter who has good range and throwing problems. Trading a relief pitcher for Ike isnt something anyone should regret. relief pitchers are the definition of expendable.

              • R Edwards

                If Ike was a middle infielder, I’d agree with you. But, he’s a first baseman and supposed to provide more than walks and singles. He’s supposed to provide power and drive in runs – Harrison and Mercer do more of both than Ike Davis does. Garrett Jones was better, even in his worst year.

                BTW, we traded much more than a relief pitcher (Thornton) for slugging Ike Davis – we traded a highly touted second round pick from last season (Taylor) – who was a very promising left handed starting pitching prospect. It was a bad trade – not as bad as the Morris trade – but bad nonetheless.

                • Lukas Sutton

                  I hate antiquated ideas like “position X is supposed to provide X”. Who cares where you get power and OBP and walks. We have Cutch, Walker, Pedro and even guys like Harrison for power. This team could use a high OBP guy more than a high power guy. GI Jones is barely better than Ike since he doesnt get on base. We traded a useless Thornton and a lotto pick in Taylor. Calling him a highly touted guy is a bit much. He is a good prospect but even now likely a bullpen arm in the pros. He isnt “very promising” he is raw. Huge difference. You then go on to call the Morris trade bad, which proves you care more about what happened after the fact than the facts at the time. You CANT judge trades once the results happen, its about value for value at the time. The Morris trade wasnt bad because we got rid of a guy for a high draft pick. To call the Morris trade bad by your standards, you have to wait 3+ years until the draft picks plays. Morris was trending down while playing for us and we got value for him. Other team got a young guy with upside. Even deal. In the Ike deal, we got a platoon guy that is at worst average and they got an organizational filler and a raw LHP who is very young. no one can logically call either of those trades losses on either side.

                  • R Edwards

                    Given his stuff, pedigree, and flashes from Spring Training, Morris was obviously going to turn things around – with the Pirates or another team, Too much talent not to. I’d take him over any of the following members of our current bullpen – Gomez, Pimentel, Frieri. The Pirates gave up on him way too soon, while stubbornly trotting Frieri out there.

                    I disagree also about your assessment of first base – I am not satisfied with a singles hitter occupying that position, regardless of how other positions are producing. Davis (and Sanchez) haven’t done anything to justify that.

  • bmcferren

    He will be traded to Philadelphia for Byrd in the next two weeks