Alen Hanson #36 – 2013 Top 100
Date of Birth: October 22nd, 1992(age 20)
Origin: Signed as an International Free Agent in 2009 out of La Romana, Dominican Republic
Chris Blessing: Not many Shortstops in baseball had a better season than the one Alen Hanson put together in 2012, his first in full season ball. Hanson, a 2009 free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic, was the best infield prospect to come out of the South Atlantic League last season. Sporting a nifty .309/.381/.528 line in 125 ball games, the young Shortstop battled Rockies prospect Trevor Story, Yankees prospects Mason Williams and Gary Sanchez, along with his own teammate Gregory Polanco, for the best position player prospect in the league in 2012. Hanson’s biggest weakness at this point in his career is his strikeout rate, which was 19% last year. For a player that utilizes his speed like Hanson does, it is imperative for him to cut down on those strikeouts numbers. Hanson has mastered the ability to get on base via the walk but with two strikes, strike zone discipline seems to go out the window. In the field, Hanson is currently a below average defender who certainly has the range and arm to at least become average. If he continues to struggle with rushing through plays at short, it may be in his, and the team’s, best interest to facilitate a move to the outfield.
Evan Rentschler: Hanson is the flipside of the coin that features Gregory Polanco’s smiling face on the other side. Closely linked in the minds of prospectors for obvious reasons, it seems to be an even split as to which of these two fine players is (marginally) better, and I remember Chris going back and forth himself after his viewing. Unlike Polanco, Hanson was someone with whom I was familiar, as after two similarly promising years in the Gulf Coast League Hanson was a sleeper of mine heading into 2012.
Perhaps because of the superior track record, or perhaps because April was his hottest month followed by an inevitable cool down to merely red hot, Hanson’s season strikes some as less of a breakout, but he made the same jump from GCL to Low-A and it was arguably that much more impressive for his having done it as a SS. 62 of his 151 hits went for extra bases, and there’s potentially special power here. Hanson is a switch-hitter who looks a bit more balanced from the left side; unsurprisingly most of his home run power comes from that side. He also features a pronounced bat wrap from each side, but barrels the ball well enough that it’s less of a concern. He’s still very effective hitting right-handed, so unlike, say, Nick Franklin, there’s no reason to abandon the enterprise.
His future as a SS is more in question, as Chris attests above, and I think the suggestion of a move to the OF is inspired, and not just because it’s nice not to see the usual assumption that a failed SS will just seamlessly slide to the next stop down the defensive spectrum.
Jeff Reese: His breakout in the SAL was almost immediate, Evan. Polanco did not come to prominence nationally until around July, while Hanson was being labeled as one of the most significant risers of the season by May. The Pirates have really done a great job of finding and developing players out of Latin America over the past few years – often those who were not the most overally renowned when they were signed. The Cam Bonifay era had a steady stream of incoming talent from Mexico, but little came to fruition during David Littlefield’s tenure. The resources available to Rene Gayo increased when Neal Huntington replaced him and have borne fruit; Alen Hanson is one of the diamonds that has emerged. When there are questions about a prospect’s ability to stick at short stop, that generally means that they will move off of that position by the time they reach the majors. The potential in Hanson’s bat can certainly survive a slip down the defensive spectrum.
Fantasy Focus by Chris Blessing
Several years away from the majors, it’s easy to buy into the hype surrounding a prospect such as Hanson, especially at a position like short where pitiful offensive players are regular fantasy participants. As he moves up the chain, be wary of his strikeout rate. If it continues to climb, it might be best to sell.