Last night, I was planning on writing about how Alen Hanson should be playing in the Pirates’ lineup for the rest of the year. Then, a bunch of transactions took place, and I changed up the First Pitch article, recapping the busy day.
I figured I could wait, because sadly the Alen Hanson story would be the same today. There was a small part of me that thought “They just shut down Gerrit Cole for the year, just lost Josh Harrison for the year, and now they’re giving shots to Wade LeBlanc and Zach Phillips…surely they’ll play Hanson!”
Then tonight’s lineup came out. The 70-73 Pirates did not start Hanson, and instead, started Sean Rodriguez at second base, with Adam Frazier in left field. Hanson didn’t even get in the game. He still has just six plate appearances to his name so far.
Here’s the situation with Hanson. He’s out of options next year, which means he has to be on the active roster, or they have to trade him in the off-season, or designate him for assignment in the off-season. His value has dropped each year, going from dreaming about a potential impact starter after his 2012 breakout, to maybe an above-average starter, to an average starter, and now to a super utility player who could still have a shot at being an average starter. He’s got good speed, and good hitting tools, plus he can play the second base position. His problem is consistency, and lately it has been him pushing too hard to reach the majors, getting to the point where he’s taking huge cuts at every pitch, trying to hit home runs, when he’d be fine just making solid contact and using his speed for singles and doubles.
Hanson has struggled at every new level he’s played at. I always had concerns about his eventual promotion, since that thought of the future always took place in an era where the Pirates were actual contenders. How would a team manage to ease him into the majors and deal with those initial struggles? The question now is whether the consistency issues, and trying too hard to stick in the majors, will be a problem.
Here’s the situation with the Pirates. They’re now 70-74, and six games out of the Wild Card spot, with three teams ahead of them. They just shut down a few key players. Again, they’re giving chances to Wade LeBlanc and Zach Phillips. I actually like that approach. See what you have in them, and maybe they can be bullpen options for you next year, as they both have years of control remaining. I can also think of one other person this approach would apply to.
The Pirates are in the perfect situation with Hanson. The games the next three weeks don’t matter. If Hanson comes up and has his usual struggles at a new level, it won’t impact them. If he comes up and still has consistency issues from pressing too hard, it could give him a chance to actually settle in. Their starting second baseman is out for the year, so you don’t have the awkward situation of sitting a guy to play someone who won’t be taking his job next year. The guy who is getting starts, Sean Rodriguez, has put together an amazing season, but is a free agent at the end of the year.
The only thing that might make sense here is that the Pirates don’t want to bench Rodriguez, possibly with the hope of bringing him back next year. If that happens, there’s no need to play Hanson, because he’s not going to be on the team. The bench is currently David Freese, Chris Stewart, Adam Frazier, and John Jaso is currently in the mix. They could get rid of Jaso and have both Rodriguez and Hanson on the roster, but I feel like they’d want a true outfielder in that group.
But you could still get playing time for Hanson in that scenario. Bench Adam Frazier, who has his spot locked down next year. See what you’ve got in Hanson. Use the remainder of this lost season to get him acclimated to the big leagues. Because he needs to be up next year, and unless the Pirates just don’t have him in the plans at all, they should be playing him.
**Giles: Drew Hutchison Is A New Kind of Project For the Pirates. Ed Giles wrote about Drew Hutchison today. One key note is that Ray Searage hasn’t even started working with him. As we learned in Alan Saunders’ article on Ivan Nova, Searage likes to see a pitcher throw a few times before making suggestions and working on them. So we haven’t even seen Hutchison as a reclamation project yet.
**Instructs Report: Will Craig Moves to First Base, But Not For the Reason You’d Expect. The games at instructs started today, and I’ve got a notebook packed with info you can’t find anywhere else. An interesting note on the first round pick this year, and video and reports on the new pitchers from the Arquimedes Caminero trade, plus a few new guys just up from the DSL.
**Pirates Begin 2017 Schedule at Fenway Park. I kind of like this schedule. I can envision some easy road coverage for the site, which means easier travel for the Pirates. I’ve already started booking road coverage for next year, including that series in Fenway.