Hanson developing into ideal middle infielder for Bucs
Shortstop prospect rounding into complete offensive threat in Minor Leagues
Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop prospect Alen Hanson has long been admired within the organization for having an outstanding attitude and work ethic.
Hanson is 5-foot-11 and only 152 pounds. He packs more punch and power than his wiry frame would seem to indicate.
Hanson, a native of La Romana in the Dominican Republic, has been playing in the Pirates' organization since he was 17. Now 20, the switch-hitter has a bright future with a club that is not very deep in shortstop prospects.
Hanson's teammate, South African Gift Ngoepe, similar in physical stature to Hanson, is playing with Hanson on the Arizona Fall League Scottsdale Scorpions team. Both play middle infield, but Hanson is a bit further advanced than Ngoepe.
Hanson, No. 3 on the Pirates Top 20 Prospects list, has had mixed results in parts of four seasons in the Minors.
He has played in 374 games and has been to the plate 1,630 times, not counting his Fall League experience. He has a career Minor League batting average of .292, with his best results coming in 2012, when he hit .309 at Class A West Virginia, and at the beginning of this past season.
Hanson hit 16 home runs in 2012. He also had 33 doubles and 13 triples among his 151 hits. He stole a career-high 35 bases, serving notice that he is a complete offensive threat with power and speed.
Hanson began 2013 at Class A Advanced Bradenton, where he hit .281 in 92 games. He hit 23 doubles, eight triples and seven home runs. He showed power, generated by quick hands and a good hitting approach, and he stole 23 bases.
At Double-A Altoona in the Eastern League, Hanson scuffled a bit. His batting average dropped to .255 against better quality pitching. He only hit one home run, giving him a total of eight for the season.
Hanson's statistics have always been far more favorable hitting as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitching. This past season, he hit .305 against righties and .224 against left-handed offerings. He had 112 more at-bats against right-handed pitching.
With his speed and ability to hit the gaps, Hanson can become a force at the top of the batting order. His hands are so good at the plate that he can get through the ball quickly enough to use the entire field and take pitches where they are thrown. Clearly however, he can do the most damage from his pull side batting left-handed.
In the Arizona Fall League, Hanson looks tired at the plate -- almost worn out. He struck out eight times in his first 38 at-bats. Pitchers are using every pitch in their arsenal, changing speeds and locations on him and fooling Hanson badly.
Defensively, Hanson has a history of being error-prone at shortstop. He doesn't have the strongest arm, and his initial step isn't the quickest, leaving him vulnerable at balls hit in the hole. He is fine on the average play and on coming in on ground balls, but he isn't as smooth and polished as he needs to become.
Showing solid upside as an offense-first middle infielder, given his combination of power and speed, I believe Hanson could be an ideal second baseman.
I think his offense would improve if he didn't have to be concerned with all the ground he has to cover at shortstop. His natural ability and good baseball instincts could play very well at second base.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.