Alen Hanson facing roadblocks on his road to Pittsburgh
By Jake Misener
Heading into camp in Florida tomorrow, the discussions regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates middle infield will largely be centered around the likes of Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer and first-year player Jung-ho Kang. However, before the year comes to an end, we could very well be talking about Alen Hanson, who enters 2015 as the team’s sixth-ranked prospect.
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Hanson, just 22 years old, spent last season with the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate in Altoona, appearing in 118 games. In that span, he batted .280/.326/.442 for the Curve, swiping 25 bases while also hitting 11 home runs, 21 doubles and driving in 58 runs.
The Dominican Republic native heads into the 2015 season as the 92nd-ranked prospect in all of Major League Baseball; a step backwards from his #67 ranking ahead of last year’s campaign. That being said, he’s shown the ability to adjust at each step along the road of his minor league career – something that makes him attractive moving forward.
Since beginning his professional career back in 2010, Hanson has compiled a .287/.347/.450 slash line across 527 games in the Pittsburgh organization, including a .275/.320/.428 mark across parts of two seasons in Altoona. Likely to open the 2015 season with Triple-A Indianapolis, he’ll get his first look at a new crop of talent on the mound – just one step from reaching the Steel City.
There’s just one problem. Well, actually three of them.
Their names? The aforementioned Kang, Mercer and Walker.
The Pittsburgh middle infield is an already-crowded place, with these three players vying for playing time this season alone. Last season, Walker emerged as one of the premier offensive threats at his position in the National League, clubbing 23 home runs and driving in 76 runs.
His future with the Pirates is uncertain, though; he may be headed out of town if he continues to perform at a high level given the likely high interest other clubs will have in his services and the Bucs’ financial constraints.
Mercer, meanwhile, has also blossomed into one of the more valuable shortstops in the big leagues. A recent MLB Network ranking placed him among the top 10 in all of baseball after a 12-homer, 55 RBI season in 2014.
Both he and Walker, however, face stiff competition in Kang, who is breaking onto the big league scene after leading the KBO last season with 40 home runs – showcasing power that critics are split on whether or not will transfer to the States.
Still, Hanson is on the rise – and with no signs of slowing down, either. He’s never hit below .260 in a full minor league season, which sounds like nothing, but given the tremendous ups-and-downs we see among prospects these days, it’s promising.
If he can keep up a line somewhere in the ballpark of .280/.320/.420 with Triple-A Indianapolis this season, it’s not out of the possibility that we see Alen Hanson in a Pirates’ uniform in 2015.
The only question now is: Where is he going to play?