The Pirates Prospects 2016 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2016 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get free and discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting the 2016 book for free, and Annual subscribers getting $10 off. Both levels of subscribers can also get the book for just $5. Details on all three promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Willy Garcia, RF
19. Clay Holmes, RHP
18. Mitch Keller, RHP
17. Max Moroff, 2B
16. Chad Kuhl, RHP
15. Cole Tucker, SS
14. Stephen Tarpley, LHP
13. Steven Brault, LHP
12. Yeudy Garcia, RHP
11. Kevin Newman, SS
10. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
9. Nick Kingham, RHP
8. Elias Diaz, C
7. Reese McGuire, C
6. Harold Ramirez, OF

We continue the countdown with the number 5 prospect, Alen Hanson.

5. Alen Hanson, 2B

After the Neil Walker trade in December 2015, the door is open for Hanson to step up and be the second baseman of the future in Pittsburgh. Before that happens, he is going to need to iron out a few inconsistencies with his game on the offensive side of things.

Hanson has struggled with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball throughout his young career. He came up as a shortstop, but struggled to make the routine play, displaying a lack of focus at times. This became even more frustrating when he would make a difficult play look routine. The Pirates eventually moved him off the shortstop position and over to second base, where his defense really improved in 2015. He showed the range of a shortstop, cutting out the middle of the field, and was much more consistent.

The problem for Hanson was that his offense was inconsistent in 2015. He had his usual early season slump, which has taken place in each of the last three seasons. He started hitting in May, but eventually slumped again at the end of the year, which might have cost him a September call-up. He’s a switch hitter, but struggled against left-handers, which also raises some concerns in the future.

When Hanson’s bat is on, he makes an impact from the middle infield, with the ability to hit for some power – a lot of which is in the form of extra bases – while also adding a lot of speed. He can hit for average, controls the strike zone, and outside of his time in Altoona, he puts up some decent walk rates. If he adds some consistency to his game, he could be an above-average second baseman in the majors.

Hanson could jump to the majors at the start of 2016 if Jung-ho Kang is still out. He picked up time at third base this year, and there was talk of him possibly learning left field. His best route to the majors would be a super utility player until he gets adjusted. If he does get adjusted, then he’d be in line to take over second base for the Pirates for the long-term, possibly sharing time with Max Moroff if the platoon issues remain.

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  1. Quick question kind of off the topic for Tim or John.

    Do you know if Jaso will catch any innings in spring training?
    (notice I just said innings)

    Does it make sense that he would catch maybe an inning for
    maybe the top 2-3 starters and an inning for the top 2-3 relievers
    just in case? Would that make any sense? Or will they just
    tell him to leaving his catching gear at home?

    Can you ask what the plan will be?

    • Also, Tim and John, could you find out if they think Neil Walker will ever move back to catcher. It never gets old]

          • Aww, my bad freddy. I wondered if that was sarcasm or not, and I should’ve known as you don’t often fall into that trap. The ” Walker could’ve been the 1st baseman ” cliché. Apologies.

            • Np Leo. Just my attempt at keeping an old, tired joke alive. I’m sure Walker will be fine at 2B for Mets fans. I doubt they have the same overall knowledge of Pirates fans and they have been watching Murphy for quite a few years. Walker makes low errors and mostly the routine plays. It will take time to get that his range is deficient.

  2. There have been passels of prospects with the tagline “If they ever put it all together” who have failed (and many who have succeeded).

    Hanson is just another one. The question is: Will he or won’t he?

    (all together now)

    Time Will Tell. 🙂

    • I agree, it is a huge leap from AAA Prospect to the majors. He has been a favorite of mine since 2012 and I think he has enough positive attributes going for him to be a solid contributor for the Pirates. I think he will benefit from being reunited with his close friend, Gregory Polanco and I would love to see he and Polanco as 1 – 2 in the order in 2016.

  3. Seems from his stats that his offense vs. RHP is pretty steady, but vs LHP it bounces around:

    OPS splits…
    Year Total RHP LHP
    2012 .909 .931 .853
    2013 .755 .868 .576
    2014 .768 .774 .755
    2015 .701 .735 .617

    Interesting tidbit… he has had a few at-bats against RHP as a RHB. Wonder what the story was behind that.

    • Short-side minor league splits are often misleading because of sample size and quality of competition. Good ol fashioned scouting is the better way to evaluate. For instance, there were folks here arguing with me last year about Josh Bell from the right side because he had an OPS over .800 against LHP in 2014. Meanwhile, that “success” obviously wasn’t sustained.

      If scouts see flaws in the swing, or trouble adjusting to breaking stuff, or trouble against quality pitches in general, that’s almost always a far better indicator.

      • FWIW regarding sample size, between 28% and 38% of his PA were against LHP. The highest proportion coincided with his worst performance (2013). His k% was has been between 17% and 21% against LHP, compared with 15%-19% against RHP. Also his best k% vs. LHP was in 2013. Go figure.

    • Knuckleballers, maybe? That seems to be the most comment reason to bat right-on-right for a switch hitter.

        • After awhile you run out of extra guys who platoon. You platoon your catchers, 1bman, 2bman, RFer, etc ,etc, etc. Your whole bench becomes a platoon, that opposing managers can wreak havoc with.

          How many times did we groan when an opposing manager brought in a lefty to face Walker?

          • For as many times as folks have given that answer on Pirates message boards, how many times can you actually remember specific situations where it came to fruition? Honest question.

  4. It seems like this kid has fallen off the map after his breakout in 2012. We forget that he was 19 and almost 3 years younger than league average then. He put some pop into the bat in ’14 and ’15, and it looks to me like he’s learned at every level. I see a future Johnny Ray type player, with a better glove. And that would be just fine.

  5. Is it anywhere close to being feasible with age and maturity that Hanson could move back to SS. If Moroff continues to develop as a second baseman and Frazier being viewed as a utility option, Hanson at SS would make for a pretty good MI. Just a thought.

    • I’ve wondered the same thing…If the problem was lack of focus as a younger player on the more routine plays but he has superior range and can make the hard plays look easy,then it seems that as he has matured a bit he can make those adjustments. He isn’t having issues with routine plays at 2nd so…Now if the issues at SS was because of a lack of arm strength and he was rushing to get the ball across the diamond, then booting balls because he is thinking “I need to get this ball off” could continue to haunt him…

      • I think Hanson at SS could be a question for 2017. He is not really needed there this year but if he really hits he could be an option to get 20-30 games there a year for sure. Especially if he can show at least an average arm there, then he could get more…but the Pirates favor defense at SS so he would have to be a plus defender get a lot of time there or be the starter

          • Understood, but knowing what I know about the Pirates if Mercer hits .210 for 2 months or they have injuries they will either run Florimon out there, possibly Ngoepe, or sign or trade for a field-only vet, or play Harrison there before they would put Hanson there…and rightfully so…but you are right, Kang proved if you are raking they will get you in there, so it is definitely possible…Kang is a pro league veteran and battle-tested though.

      • Some people here disagree, but I watched him his entire time in Altoona, and he didn’t ever appear to have the arm to play SS regularly at the MLB Level.

          • Hanson still was a real prospect, and I don’t think the AA Manager at the time, Carlos Garcia, handled he an some other young guys very well. Garcia was let go entirely from the organization after the 2014 season. That was revealing !

            • Some you pat on the back and some you kick their butt – good managers are very good at recognizing the right buttons to push with each individual player. You guys would know, but it seems that Garcia may not have had that quality.

              • Especially with very young prospects emjay. I know this seems like a minor point, but Garcia never even came out of the dugout his last season there. He had one of the young coaches there at third base, and I have never seen that done, ever, in 17 seasons.

        • Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard from quite a few people. Range and athletic ability isn’t an issue just the arm…

  6. His best route to the majors would be a super utility player until he gets adjusted.

    Wouldn’t this be a big break with how the Pirates have handled the bench positions and top prospects (a debatable point for Hanson) over the past several seasons?

    • It could be read that way…

      However, IIRC, this was pretty much the prescription for Kang last season.

      It’s just debatable whether one would have considered him a ‘prospect’ last season.

    • I think it is fair to say that how they handle him is likely to be indicative of how they view him in their longterm plans. PGH has been pretty steadfast in avoiding a guy they view as a solution to a position longterm being brought up in a bench role and starting his clock that way.

      They could, at this point, see him as more of a fringe guaranteed starter and use him off the bench as he adjusts. Did it with Harrison, seemed willing to throw Kang off the bench until he forced them not to.

  7. It seems like it’s common for switch hitters to struggle from the right side. Why don’t they just try to hit left-handed pitching while batting left-handed? I always thought it was stubborn of NW to keep hitting from the right side.

    • Same with Josh Bell. This many years in if his RH swing is still funky and produces little power, why not just go all lefty.

    • Bell I can understand because offense is so important at the position, would make sense to give yourself the platoon advantage.

      But a speed guy like Hanson? Why not keep him on the first base side and at the very least have him be a slap and run hitter against LHP?

      • Hanson is definitely much more consistent from the left side, and more pop, but he has had some very decent years from the right side – .286 in 2012 and .292 in 2014

        • It’s hard to get a lot of work against decent lefties in the minors too. There’s much more concentration in the upper minors. A lot of guys just need more reps, and then still may be a little weaker. Let’s face it, being a switch hitter still means that you’re primarily a left handed batter.

  8. Tim -Let’s make a positive assumption that Jung-ho Kang (who hit a home run yesterday against the Twins) makes a complete recovery and is ready to go day one this season. Is Hanson looking at the utility role or is he sent to AAA?

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