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.