When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at an easier position, and only focusing on his bat. Hanson was optioned to Indianapolis last week, and the Pirates are hoping he can provide depth at some point this year.

“That’s the goal,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “We’ve got some work to do with Alen. There’s a ton that we like about him as a player. He’s continued to grow and evolve. But we’ve got some work left. He may not be the first guy called up right now, but the beautiful part about baseball is that six weeks into the season he can change our opinion, he can change our minds.”

The key for Hanson is consistency. That has been an issue for him in the past, both at the plate and on the field. The field issues were the biggest concern, as he saw a lot of struggles at shortstop. The strange thing is that he would make difficult plays look easy, and then would make poor throws or other fielding mistakes on routine plays. The move to second base should be easier for him, although no position in the infield will help solve the throwing problems he had.

“It’s still a work in process,” Huntington said of his defense. “He has the athletic ability to be a really good defensive second baseman. It’s just the consistency and the reps. The ability to make it become second nature, and not have to think about positioning, or think about what play he’s making, or how he’s going to make the pivot, or how he’s going to start a double play, or his positioning. That takes time.”

Hanson said he talked a lot with the veteran players during his time in big league camp, getting tips on his position and what he needs to do in order to be ready to play there. The move isn’t going to be a big adjustment for him, as he has experience at the position from the past.

“I was ready to play second,” Hanson said of the move. “That was my position when I started my career. I feel comfortable there.”

Today, Hanson was participating in an interesting drill at second base with infield coordinator Gary Green. He was receiving throws from third base, then making the turn and throwing to first while Green rolled a bucket at the base. The goal was to get him used to making that double play turn and throwing the ball while avoiding a sliding runner.

Hanson GIF

Hanson has a bit of work to do at second base, but it should be easier than the work he had to do at shortstop. The consistency issues at the plate weren’t as big as the defensive issues, but they were also there, usually carrying over from his problems on the field.

“Offensively, it’s just consistency, and understanding what type of hitter he can be, and understanding that he can be incredibly disruptive when he gets on base, and helping him do that on a more consistent basis,” Huntington said.

Hanson said that he feels good from the left side, but that he’s working more on his approach from the right side, specifically trying to use the opposite field, which is a big focus in the Pirates’ system. At his best, he’s a line drive hitter who uses his speed to pick up extra singles, extra bases, and steal a few when he gets on base.

“He can be electric in the batter’s box,” Huntington said. “He can do some things defensively in the field. We’ve just got to help him do them more consistently.”

The Pirates have plenty of depth in Pittsburgh. Neil Walker is the starter at second base. Other options on the big league squad include Josh Harrison, Jung-ho Kang, and Sean Rodriguez. But Alen Hanson could fit in the mix later in the year, especially if the Pirates see a combination of injuries or poor performance. He could eventually be a starter in the majors. But he’ll need to be more consistent on both sides of the ball before that can happen.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. I still don’t see why they went out and got Kang!I GUESS THERE GONNA GO CHEAP AND NOT RESIG.N WALKER..

    • I hope you understand it’s not about being “CHEAP” as you say.

      They got Kang for depth (assuming they thought they were going to win the bid). J Hay has had one good season, so his future production isn’t guaranteed. Walker is beginning to have back issues, which have a history of lingering, and he turns the big 3-0 this year.

      Also, history indicates Walker is past his prime (they say the peak age for hitters is 27). So his future production isn’t guaranteed either.

      If neither Kang or Hanson work out, and they believe a 34 year old Neil at .250/.310/.400 slash line (obviously predicting an exaggerated drop) would be more productive, then I’m sure they’ll try to sign him.

  2. Hanson has declined in almost every area as he moved up the ladder. In 2012 he looked like a high-end SS prospect. Since then, his Avg, ISO and BB% have dropped substantially, and (worst of all) he proved he cannot handle SS long-term. He no longer seems like an impressive prospect.
    The best thing he can do to help the Bucs is learn to play passable defense at 3B and CF. He could have a decent career as a super utility player, especially in that he could fill in at SS in a pinch. His speed should allow him to play at least mediocre OF defense.

    • True that 2012 was Hanson’s career year so far and he dropped off substantially in 2013, although 2014 was nearly identical to the year before, with some extra HRs.

      He has shown good range at short, but is inconsistent with his sure handedness.

      Below are Hanson’s age adjusted MLEs (adjusted for park, league and age). He doesn’t walk enough and you’d like him to have better than a just average BABIP (BH)

      Year Age PA wOBA BA/ OB/ SA BH HR BB SO Level
      2010 17 276 303 275/303/399 347 019 043 219 IntR
      2011 18 250 293 232/289/388 290 022 070 217 R/A-
      2012 19 566 347 275/336/472 336 041 083 224 A/Win
      2013 20 663 277 234/277/357 296 019 055 235 A+/AA/Fall/Win
      2014 21 611 287 244/282/379 300 026 050 222 AA/Win

  3. Pedro at his silver slugger production level a couple years ago to me was worth maybe a B prospect. If Pedro continues to improve and be patient his stock will rise for those that need a DH that can fill in at first or third if he has too. If Bell is lighting it up or if Lambo finally comes around I’d expect Pedro to be out of the black and gold by next spring… sooner depending on Hart and how the well the team is doing.

    Walker at last years level could easily pull a A or B+ and maybe some other depth options. Mercer, could probably also get a B+ prospect due to his salary and premium position. Neither Walker or Mercer show signs of winning gold gloves. They’re okay, make almost all the plays you expect them too but that is about it. If Kang Tears it up, one of the two maybe gone by the deadline. If Hanson progresses a little better than expected and the season is over, both could be taking a walk. But I would expect Mercer to stick around just because of his contract.

    Just my opinion

    • See Andrew’s post above re: Walker Prospect Return. He’s not pulling an A prospect for only one year of service.

      • a few months more than that if he is sold before the deadline to a contender in need. but if it comes down to taking less than a B+ and he is hitting at last year’s clip. I would keep Walker.

        • They wont trade Walker in season, and i’d be shocked if they sold Pedro at the deadline. Its a terrible PR move (they dont seem to care about that but its a reality) and it likely aint a popular move by the team. Both of those guys would be having productive seasons and helping the team try to contend, so trading them for prospects (even high ones) wont sit easy with players at times. Players you might wanna try to resign.

          Im all for being willing to trade anyone at any price, but not in season. Move Walker or Pedro, but lets wait til the offseason to reshape the roster.

          • IF (big if) Kang is the real deal shopping Walker at the deadline would be a smart move.

            Unless Walker takes a nice size home town discount he won’t be extending, especially with Hanson and Kang poised to take over.

            Pedro won’t be resigned

            • I believe the value the Pirate can get out of an additional season of Neil Walker plus the draft pick they’ll inevitably receive when he signs elsewhere could very likely be more than they’d get for Walker in a trade.

              Just like they didn’t trade Russ Martin and Francisco Liriano last year, I don’t believe the Pirates should trade Walker, either.

              • Good point about the pick if they QO him, but that is not why they didn’t trade Russ. Russ was one of the leaders of the team and no one really to take his place offensively.. Stewart did have a fairly good year though. They didn’t trade Liriano because there was no one to take over his rotation spot that could do near as well.. and they’re trying to win the division.

                Now lets say Kang is playing nearly every day in various positions getting 25 ABs a week or whatever and is hitting .270 with 20 HRs at the break. you have to at least put a feeler out there to see what you can get for Walker, you save a couple million this year and another 4-5 million next year.

            • I still dont see it in season. You are basically saying because you have great depth, you can trade one player and be fine. True….but the bench may/can suffer. Which can hurt a team in SSS….which is what the playoffs are. I like the idea of maximizing return on players without overemphasizing the feel good aspects of the guy, but in season it hurts the team that year. Having great depth is a big reason we can be successful, and mid year trading from depth does hurt the team.

              That move, for me, makes the bench pretty light hitting and doesnt let the team play matchups near as well. I love having Kang and Walker and Harrison because it allows Hurdle to do so many things. If you are rolling into July and all is well, trading Walker seems to be a good idea that overthinks its worth. Walker still has fine value in the offseason…after you roll the dice and go for a WS.

              • Well it also depends on players like Hanson as well which is the topic of this post 🙂 If Kang is the real deal and Hanson is able to come up off the bench that depth is a problem.. a good problem you could say 🙂 there is no such thing as too much talent but someone does become expend able. I choose Walker as that guy mainly because his contract.. maybe i over value him.

                Would probably have more luck going for a MLB starter swap for what ever we need at the time because of injury or what have you.

                It is still early yet though… who knows maybe nether kang or hanson get significant mlb time due to play or injury

          • I am for letting both of them play out their years of control as long as they play well this year.

  4. Not comparing him to Ronny Cedeno yet, but that was always the knock on Ronny….consistency. Hopefully, Hanson is NOT like a Ronny Cedeno (and gets DirectTV).

  5. Curious to see what’s going to happen this winter.

    Assuming Walker and Alvarez play well this year and, with Bell at Altoona and Hanson at Indy (assuming both continue their success), would the Pirates have the cojones to pull an A’s like move and trade two starters just before their walk years?

    • I think its on the table. If traded this upcoming off season and assuming a million dollar raise for each, they would save about 16 million dollars. If Kang becomes a good backup option at 2nd/Lambo becomes a good backup option at 1st, this could be a great route to go to keep the system stocked.

      • I’d tend to agree. If Pedro rebounds, Walker’s production holds, and the prospects emerge (I know, a lot of ifs…), this could be a very interesting off-season.

        As much as wanting to see if the FO would have the guts to pull the trigger, I’m very curious the haul that could be received if a 4th outfielder pulled two 4-5 starters.

        But, yes, it will have to be a change of philosophy…sign to an extension early in the career or become trade bait as you approach free agency. It’s gotta be tough for a contending club to do, but it’s what a small market team has to…

        • Not sure how to interpret “a 4th outfielder pulled two 4-5 starters”. You are referring to the Travis Snider trade?

          • Yes, I’m sure he is. But the Orioles likely view him as a starter, not a 4th outfielder, which needs to be taken in to account

            • Agreed. The Bucs are deep enough that he was a 4th outfielder.

              We’ll see if the team is just at stocked to necessitate the expendability of some of the unsignable folks.

          • Yes, Snider.

            Nothing but love for him and, without his bat, the team probably wouldn’t have made it to the post season.

            But he was the fourth outfielder and, on most teams, wouldn’t rate any higher than third.

            That said, I hope he finally lives up to his promise this season.

            • Thanks!

              I liked Snider a lot too — on field and off field. Hated to see him go. I hope he does well with his new team. And happy with how the Pirates may be strengthened, perhaps a lot (time will tell), because of the trade.

        • The Angles received Andrew Heaney currently ranked #42 overall from the Dodgers in return for Howie Kendrick. The Dodger did get Heaney from the Marlins in a trade that was pretty much maligned from Marlins perspective.

          Kendrick is better overall than Neil Walker but Walker being the better hitter, so there is a chance a little better return than a 4th OF.

    • I’ve had that thought for awhile now, although I have to admit that to this point I feel more comfortable with pedro at first than I ever did with him at third. He is looking a lot more at ease at the plate and so far he looks good at first, if pedro has the kind of year his talent has always indicated he could have a monster year, then look out for the players he could bring in a trade.

  6. Interesting stat I knew nothing about. OPPQual. It’s a stat on Baseball Reference to measure the quality of pitcher a hitter faces in spring training. with 1 being as low as A ball and 10 being Major leagues. I looked up Marte’s OPPQual and it is 8.3

    • Same as Kris Bryant. So 8.3 averages as AAA with some MLB sprinkled in, and hes doing what hes doing. I’m not saying hes the next great thing until he does something in the bigs, but what hes done thus far sure is scary.

    • so at this point i should be Horrified that Kang is hitting .130 on what what amounts to be AA/AAA pitching (7.5) on OPPQual scale My prediction was he would hit around .200 ave 10 hr and 33% ko..

      • Fair to be worried, but i think being horrified that a guy that is coming to a new country, facing entirely new arms, and trying to get up to speed with an entirely new organization might be a bit much to get “horrified” at. Its why the team has consistently said they want to ease him into things and not have him battle for starting spots from day 1. I’d be shocked if Kang didnt have some issues early on.

    • Chris: It is a great stat for discussions or trying to make a point, but pitchers who were in Hi A, or AA last year and are pitching in a ML Spring Training game are guys that are almost locks to have a future in the majors. Just think of guys getting their OPPQual lowered by somebody like Tyler Glasnow or Nick Kingham.

      • Locks to have a future, but some can be miles away from it. Useful stats to see if a guys is hitting well against talented A ball future guys or current AAA/ML polished arms. PIT has faced a few power arms that are in AA that clearly arent near ML ready.

    • Funny you should say that. I saw Hanson for the first time in an exhibition game on MLB Network a week ago, and when he got a base hit to right field I thought that he looked exactly like Rennie Stennett.

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