Pirates Are Moving Alen Hanson to Third Base

The Pittsburgh Pirates called up Brent Morel today after placing Jordy Mercer on the disabled list. Mercer is expected to be out for about six weeks, and Josh Harrison could be out for another month. That leaves the Pirates thin on the left side of their infield. Sean Rodriguez is getting the start at third base tonight, with Jung-Ho Kang at shortstop.

Several people asked today why Alen Hanson didn’t get the call to be considered at shortstop. Hanson played the position up until the end of last season, but has since moved to second base, where his defense has been much more consistent. The problem there is that Hanson is blocked at second in the majors by Neil Walker, and the Pirates don’t seem to trust him at shortstop.

But that doesn’t mean that Hanson won’t factor into the mix in the future. Ryan Palencer is covering tonight’s game in Indianapolis, and reports that Hanson was taking ground balls at third base prior to the game. He is in the starting lineup at third in tonight’s game. (UPDATE: This decision is up in the air. The lineup hasn’t been released yet, and is usually out by now. This was Hanson’s first day getting reps at the position, and the decision on when to put him in could depend on that. If he doesn’t start tonight, expect Gift Ngoepe to get the start.)

I reached out to Neal Huntington, who said that the goal for Hanson this year was getting him comfortable at second, while getting him some pre-game work at shortstop to keep him fresh at the position. As for the move to third, this is directly impacted by the injuries to Harrison and Mercer.

“The added work at third base was planned as a part of his natural progression but the time frame has been altered somewhat given the two recent injuries at the major league level,” Huntington said.

Hanson played third base and left field in the DSL in 2010, but hasn’t played those positions since then, switching over to middle infield exclusively in 2011. He played 21 games at third base in 2010.

If Hanson can re-learn the position on the fly, he would be the best option to start in the majors right now. He has been hitting well in Triple-A, with a .286/.332/.421 line in 354 plate appearances. Those figures include his typical April slump, which has taken place the last three seasons. Since the start of May, he has been hitting for a .303/.346/.473 line in 270 plate appearances, while also being derailed for a few weeks with a finger injury.

Obviously there would be concerns defensively. Hanson has been doing well at second base, enough that the Pirates seem comfortable with his development and feel he would be ready for the majors if he had a spot. He struggled at shortstop in the past, although most of the struggles came on routine plays. He would show a lot of range and make some highlight reel plays, only to boot a routine grounder or drop his arm and make a weak and off-the-mark throw to first. Third base is faster, which might give Hanson less time to react and think, which might benefit him considering the history. The Pirates would have to hope for his second base consistency at the new position, rather than what he showed at shortstop.

According to Ryan, the Pirates had other guys taking reps at third and short. Gift Ngoepe was taking ground balls at third base, while Steve Lombardozzi was taking reps at shortstop. However, these aren’t new developments, as both received work at those positions in Spring Training. Hanson moving over to third base is something that just came up, and it’s no coincidence that it happened right after Jordy Mercer went down.

Ryan Palencer contributed to this story.

  • Would it be so crazy to move Walker to third and Hanson play second for the time being? Walker was at third before he was called up years ago. That’s only if they don’t feel comfortable with Hanson moving to third so soon.

    • Walker could do it, but the move puts three positions into a relatively unsettled state (who knows how quickly Hanson can adjust to MLB pitching?), whereas now we have two, 3rd and SS (though I think Kang will do fine).

  • Can we just drop the o from bastardo and call him what he is ?

  • Looks like we just went from the deep end to the kiddie pool as far as depth is concerned.

  • Looking at the live box score now. If, just a couple of weeks ago, you’d told me Morel, Decker, and Stewart would be the only options off the bench…

  • Started at 2B.

  • not good enough neil, should have been playing some 3rd all year. just say no to scrubs and get real prospects ready play more than 1 position. like bell getting some reps in rf . this is baseball 101 in 2015.

  • ““The added work at third base was planned as a part of his natural progression but the time frame has been altered somewhat given the two recent injuries at the major league level,” Huntington said.”

    Right. And I have a bridge for sale for you here in Portland. He hasn’t seen 3rd since what, 2010? Somewhere along the line in the last 5 years, one would have thought that if he was going to be “seasoned” for a possible 3rd base job or utility placeholder, that they would have him playing it maybe once or twice a year during that timespan?

    Bah and humbug

  • Seriously with all the kudos NH has been given the best we can offer is Hanson! You also need to look at the remaining stiffs and maybe we need to look at MLB talent instead of all these “Great Talents”.

  • Just a question…as things currently sit, any guess who would play SS in Pittsburgh if something terrible happened tonight to Kang (lets really hope nothing does obviously)? Sean Rodriguez?!

  • Surprised we haven’t seen any crazy calls for Troy Tulowitzki yet. HAHA!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 20, 2015 6:28 pm

    Put Gift at SS and Kang at 3B – that is their best defense at those positions. That leaves Rodriguez on the bench and available to play first base. Hanson is not going to be coming up to play 3B anytime soon, if he hasn’t played the position in 3-4 years.

    • Neil Walker should be at 3B…but maybe the fear is that you’d have 3 people out of position instead of 2.

  • piraterican21
    July 20, 2015 6:07 pm

    I get that in season moves are not ideal, and that SS and 2b should develope a bit of,chemistry, but why not move Walker to 3b, he is better suited

  • This makes sense. What doesn’t make sense, though, is why the Pirates wouldn’t move the range-challenge Neil Walker to his old position at 3B and let Hanson play 2B. If they think Hanson is ready IF there is a position for him…then why not give him 2B and have Neil play 3B?

    • That’s exactly what i just said. If they want Hanson to be the everyday Second baseman soon they have to let him have it. I think Walker would actually benefit from Third.

  • I was all excited when I saw there was going to be breaking news . Then this.. We need help NOW. The bottom half of our lineup tonight Alvarez,Cervelli,Ishikawa,and S-Rod. It gives me nightmares..

    • I’m not overly concerned. It appears the thought is to give Hanson a few reps before bringing him up. If he doesn’t embarrass himself, I think he’ll be with the team next week.

    • Zachary Asman
      July 20, 2015 5:41 pm

      This isn’t something more? Our front office, which is generally as slowly paced and deliberate as any front office in baseball, is doing something very reactionary with one of our bigger prospects.

      Honestly, this is bigger news to me than like, acquiring Juan Uribe.

      • i wouldn’t want Uribe. I want Kang to stay at 3rd and get a good defensive SS like Barmes. Your not losing a ton of offense from Mercer to Barmes. Our defense is already weak. Kang is a below avg ML SS. Barmes at SS would keep us very strong on the left side

  • You’d think Alen Hansen should have already been getting reps at 3rd. He is currently the best all around depth option at AAA to get called up. He should have been rotating between 2B,SS,and 3B.

    • PirateBall11
      July 20, 2015 5:28 pm

      My thought is that with Walker leaving soon and Harrison/Kang/Mercer under control for several years, 2B was seen as the more pressing issue.

      • I agree with everything you said. I just think Hansen should have been moving around the IF all year. He could be in pretty good position to play any of those 3 positions. I still haven’t given up on the idea of Hansen playing SS. The only thing I worry about with him at 3rd is him having to charge a bunt or slow hopper and having to make the throw

        • michaelbro8
          July 20, 2015 7:09 pm

          Hansen’s batting makes him very valuable as a shortstop. Not quite as much as a second baseman. And even worse as a 3B

  • This is an interesting development. I wonder many other people are refreshing Pirates Prospects and MLBTR every 15-20 minutes at work.

  • Darkstone42
    July 20, 2015 5:23 pm

    If he picks it up quickly and naturally, we might not suffer too much from the Harrison and Mercer injuries after all.

    • He needs to be in KC right now. Great hands and feet and is the lead off hitter we are missing. Actually, Walker is our best 3B, playing third for about 2 years in AA and AAA, and there is no reason why they cannot alternate

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