Winter Leagues: Alen Hanson Off to a Slow Start in the Dominican

In the Dominican on Tuesday night, Alen Hanson went 0-for-4 with a walk, continuing his early slump this off-season. He is 5-for-31 in seven games, with a double and one walk. Hanson is known for starting slow during the regular season, but winning isn’t important in the minors, so he will play through a slump. We call the winter leagues off-season ball, but it’s their regular season down there and winning is the only thing that is important. Player development always takes a backseat. If players don’t perform, they will lose playing time and Hanson has no track record(at least not a good one) in winter ball, so he has to start hitting soon or he will get benched.

Willy Garcia went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and an error. He is 4-for-25 with one double, one walk and eight strikeouts.

Edwin Espinal got his second start of the winter, one day after hitting his first home run. He was the DH on Monday, then played first base on Tuesday. Espinal went 1-for-3 with a single.

Andrew Lambo went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and committed two errors at first base. He is 0-for-13 with five strikeouts in four games.

Mel Rojas Jr. went 0-for-4, giving him a .280 average(7-for-25) through six games.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-4 with a run scored. He is hitting .250 through eight games.

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, before Harold Ramirez came on to pinch-hit for him. The move worked, as Ramirez collected a single, then scored his team’s first run. He remained in the game, going out to left field. In the ninth inning, Ramirez was taken out for a pinch-hitter.

  • I’m worried about more than hanson just starting slow. His equivalencies don’t look fantastic and I’m afraid some may think he will be more than he really is. Hope I’m wrong though

    • Another year at AAA would do him good. He’s been able to get on base enough to this point to be solid looking going forward. If he can continue throwing up OBP numbers of .330+ with his speed, he’ll find a home at 2B.

      I think he’ll underwhelm early as a pro, but settle into a .270/.330 type with good speed and defense. Not a top of the order guy but helpful hitting 7th or 8th.

      • Hope you’re right. If he is an eventual replacement for walker I hope with defense he can at least be 1.5 WAR guy by 2017.

        • 1.5 WAR is an awfully low bar for a starter up the middle player. A full season with good defense just about gets you there on that alone.

          .330 OBP will be a stretch with his current plate discipline and contact levels unless he’s a +.320 BABIP player or so. And even then, we’ve seen with Polanco that simply being average at other offensive skills without power doesn’t actually result in a good hitter. Tough offensive profile for Hanson at the big league level, but he’s got a chance to really add value in the field and on the bases, when he gets there.

          • Im most interested to see how his defense settles. Tools are there for him to become a really good defensive 2Bmen with more consistency.

          • I am really not expecting much from Hanson. I see him as a utility type at best.

            As always in cases like this, I hope to be proven wrong.

            • Offensively he might underwhelm, but i cant really see his defense+speed keeping him out of the lineup unless we see someone like Moroff continue to throw up 2015 numbers.

              Hanson as a super utility seems odd with Harrison around. Im skeptical theyd give Harrison 2B and Hanson super utility, when Harrison could take reps at 2B but give far better utility value at 3B and RF/LF.

            • I tend to agree. I think, as Luke said, he’ll probably get plenty of chance to start given what seems to be Harrison’s best role, but I’m just not sure I see the bat ever playing up enough to be more than a second division starter, similar to Mercer but for different reasons.

              Kid is still plenty young, and maybe you see an improvement once his age catches up, but that low-A breakout is now four years old without any close to that kind of success following up. Certainly has some tools with skill to back them up, but I really don’t think he’s seen as a top prospect without that one breakout year. Speed might set him apart. but otherwise I’m not sure I see how he’s a better prospect than Elias Diaz.

          • I don’t really understand the rankings of WAR, but inst anything + from a rookie or first year starter a good thing?

            • Depends on what you mean. Any positive WAR would mean he didnt totally get overmatched in all facets. But he could be below average on offense and make up for it with plus speed and good defense and come in between 0.1-1.0 WAR.

              I think that’d disappoint many fans and they’d think he seriously hurt the team (which could be valid, it’d be losing 2-ish WAR from Walker down to 1 WAR). 1 WAR would be a positive in that his development isnt regressing and he’s offensive development away from very good, but it’d mean needing increased production elsewhere to make the team as good.

            • Luke did a good job but from a more global perspective, yes, positive WAR from a first year player would at least theoretically mean that the player was better than a random replacement pulled out of the minor leagues. A true big league ball player.

              Whether or not that means the guy will eventually turn into an average one or better depends on a whole lot else, but positive is certainly a good start.

  • Its almost to the point where it’d be major news if Hanson didnt start slow at whatever level he recently got a shot at. Hopefully he’s saving all his early successes for the big league call up.

    • Is it really a slow “start”? He was slumping towards the end of his Indy season.

      • He did slump late. But for whatever reason, he always tends to struggle early on at a new level. Not sure this truly counts as a new level, but when Hanson struggles early its really just par for the course.

        • Maybe I misread Arthur, but is it really just an early slump if the player also slumps at other points in the season?

          This kind’ve gets to the “hot hand” theory. Is there an actual reason for the early slump, or is it simply coincidental and more a reflection of the overall player?

          A guy on DK’s old blog always did a good job of disproving the Adam LaRoche late starter theory.

          • I do think its a lot more random than many attribute. I always think of Mercer and how a few fans rail on him for “always starting slow”. All it takes is a few years of poor play early on to establish the narrative.

            Hell, i remember before the big break out season when a few fans grumbled about Cutch’s lack of late season hitting and if he wasnt a late season hitter.

        • I mean, it’s not like Hanson has then gone on to be consistently good at every stop after said early season “slump”. Seems to always be ups and downs with him.

  • I would love to see one of these games, just to see the atmosphere. The players the Pirates have there? I’m not so much nervous, as I am apathetic.

    • I worked in PR for about 2 months over a winter about 10 years ago. The atmosphere is pretty raucous, but not as much from what I was told in the Dom Rep. The players from the the states look at their work in these leagues as a chance to improve upon a certain part of their game. The Latin players from these respective countries have a lot more interest in performing well and winning. The PR league was significantly better in the 60’s and 70’s. Also many MLB’ers are not that interested in devoting as much time to winter league play as in the past. The fans are definitely into every pitch during these games.

      • That’s really cool. I imagine they will start playing exhibition games in Havana again, with the door cracked open now.

        100 years from now, probably be South American League, and Tim Williams IV will be writing columns on how the playoff seeding needs changed.

  • Since winning is the most important thing, it makes you wonder how long they’ll put up with Lambo’s ohfers…

    • I’m afraid the Lambo boat has sailed!

      • Not sure about that. If he ever gets fully healthy looks like he projects better than morse(below replacement per projections) as a stopgap at 1b or bench piece. He had a couple fantastic seasons at triple a in 2013/14.

      • I refuse to give up hope of ‘finding that ship’.

    • Well, I mentioned the same thing about Dan Gamache the day he was 1-for-10 with four errors after three games, and he hasn’t played since, now ten days later. Lambo has Major League experience though, so they probably won’t give up on him too soon. His team is 3-6, so who knows how long the fans will take him not producing. Last year it was the fans of Tony Sanchez’s team forcing him to go home. There was a lot of hate towards him and he was sent packing.

      • John: I was waiting for the “and now for the good news” but it was quite a bleak report. Hanson has not had much success in his own country since 2010 when he played in the DSL.

        His Offensive numbers at AAA were down in 2015, but his defense was very strong – sort of a complete flip/flop for him, but probably more appealing to the FO. His past history shows he has the ability to hit as well as any of our prospects, but he needed to show the glove and he did. I doubt that it is a must for him to do well in the Winter League, but it would sure help.

        • You want to see him at least hold his own in winter ball because it’s about what he saw in AAA this year as far as competition.