Scouting Report Pirates Shortstop Prospect Alen Hanson
Last week, I focused my writing efforts on Pirates prospect and West Virginia Power outfielder Gregory Polanco. In my article, I proclaimed Polanco to be a slightly better prospect than the more heralded Pirates shortstop prospect, and Polanco’s Power teammate, Alen Hanson. I cautioned the reader that I happened to like Polanco a bit better than I liked Hanson. I was in no way down about Hanson’s prospect status. Alen Hanson is a top 50 prospect at a premium position that he’ll likely stick at in the bigs, if his bat continues to progress like I, and many other people, think it should. Here’s the thing. Although I usually am pretty stubborn about changing my mind about a prospect, after reviewing my notes and video, I think he is a better prospect than Gregory Polanco and is definitely a top 30 prospect going forward. Here is an overview of the doubleheader Hanson played in against the Rome Braves earlier this month.
Defensively, Hanson is a future major league shortstop. While not spectacular like another prospect I scouted this year, Reds prospect Didi Gregorius, Alen shows the range, soft hands and strong throwing arm you’d expect a future MLB caliber shortstop would in the lower minors. Right now though, he is rushing. It’s like he is watching and playing a game that is moving faster than it actually is. I believe this has accounted for the bulk of his errors. While he fielded perfectly fine during the two games I observed, it was obvious that he was rushing out there. I’ve seen some pretty horrid shortstop play this season from guys not capable of doing much better. I don’t believe Hanson fits into that category.
Alen Hanson can run. All indications point to him being a plus runner, I just didn’t get a complete time from him during the two games I observed. My one chance to get a home to first time was in the third inning on a grounder. However, my clumsiness and lack of finger dexterity caused me to fumble the stopwatch wrapped around my wrist. At the end of the accompanying video, you’ll get a glimpse for yourself of Hanson’s speed on a stolen base attempt in game 2.
As I told the boys here at Bullpen Banter privately, I initially didn’t get the best feel for Alen Hanson, the hitter. Facing Braves prospect Alex Wood in game one of the doubleheader, Wood executed some very good pitches against the young switch hitting shortstop. In the video, one highlight shows Wood getting in on Hanson’s hands with a fastball that, without late movement, Hanson was right on. Instead of driving the ball, Hanson hit a grounder off of his hands for an easy 6-3 putout.
It’s rare to see young switch hitters in the lower minors that have the ability to hit well from both sides of the plate, mostly because they are so new to the art of switch hitting. He employs two different hitting stances. Three things are fairly constant between the two stances. He features strong, quick wrists and hands, a short stroke for a guy capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and plenty of patience. His slash line is .311/.376/.544/.920 overall while also being young for the league. He is a better right handed hitter, made evident by a .320/.379/.562/.941 slash line. However, from the left side, he’s putting up a tremendous slash line as well, .288/.368/.495/.863.
From the right side of the plate, Hanson is very comfortable. Prior to the pitch being thrown, he wiggles his bat in front of his helmet and towards the pitcher. When the pitch is thrown, the bat is pointed upward at a 2 O’clock position. As the ball is thrown, he slowly lifts his stride leg about 6 to 8 inches off of the ground, brings the leg in slightly before striding 6 to 8 inches towards the pitcher. When he swings, his generates a good bit of rotation with his hips. He showed a good ability to stay back on off-speed pitches despite all of the movement and timing mechanisms he has in place. Although I wasn’t able to witness his power potential from the right side of the plate due to a lack of batting practice prior to the doubleheader, it was clear, from the explosiveness of his hips to his strong hands; Hanson can drive the drive ball with authority.
From the left Side of the Plate, Hanson, at times, appears to be stiff. However, he is still able to deliver positive results from this side of the plate. To me, it seems he is new to switch hitting and his current success is tied directly to his good hand/eye coordination and quick wrists more than his ability to use all of the moving parts of his swing, especially his lower body. He barely strides with his right leg and his left leg’s hip rotation lacks explosiveness, compared to his swing from the right side of the plate. He is just not driving the ball from the left side. This will eventually be solved through reps in the cage and reps against live pitches.
Alen Hanson has a chance of becoming a special player as he works his way up the Pirates farm system. Right now, as a 19 year old in a full season league, he is doing things most 19 year olds simply can’t do. And he’s doing these things as a switch hitter to boot. His ability to work counts, take pitches, make contact, run and bunt (which I didn’t really touch on) makes Hanson a prototypical leadoff hitter. His power, however, projects to be middle of the lineup type of power. In an ideal world, where all projections come true, Hanson is a 3rd hitter with all the attributes I listed above. But I’d prefer to see his skill set in the leadoff spot. It is very realistic, and assuming the jump to High A ball treats him kindly, that Hanson is a top 10 prospect in all of baseball this time next year. Right now, he’ll have to settle for the Pirates number 3 prospect, behind Pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. The Pirates, who are a playoff team if the season ended today, have a brighter future than their present, something the Pirate fans have been waiting on for 20 years.