What Should The Pirates Do With Alen Hanson?

Sep 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Alen Hanson (37) talks on his cell phone in the dugout before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Alen Hanson (37) talks on his cell phone in the dugout before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Infielder Alen Hanson is a former top-100 prospect, however, the Pirates are now in a very difficult spot in terms of what to do with Hanson.

At one time it appeared that Alen Hanson was the shortstop of the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2012 Hanson exploded onto the scene with a fantastic season for the Low-A West Virginia Power. And this season led to him becoming a top-100 prospect.

During his 2012 campaign Hanson slashed .309/.381/.528/.909 with a .407 wOBA, a 147 wRC+, and a .219 ISO. Hanson also stole 35 bases while hitting 16 home runs during the 2012 season. It appeared the Pittsburgh Pirates had found a shortstop of the future that could get on base, hit for power, and brought a speed element to the table.

However, in each season since 2012 Alen Hanson’s offensive output has declined (93 wRC+, 111 wRC+, 101 wRC+, and 102 wRC+ the previous four seasons). Additionally, due to defensive struggles, he can no longer play shortstop. He has dabbled some at third base and in the outfield, but now he is primarily a second baseman.

After making his Major League debut in 2016, Alen Hanson is now in a tough spot. While he has no clear cut spot on the Pirate 25-man roster he is also out of options. Due to this, he can not begin the 2017 season in the Minor Leagues.

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During the 2016 season Hanson accumulated the first 33 plate appearances of his Major League career. In these 33 trips to the dish he hit .226 with a 2:5 walk-to-strikeout ratio, a .273 on-base percentage, a .225 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 37. He also stole a pair of bases.

Entering the 2017 season Josh Harrison is slated to be the starting second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Adam Frazier, Chris Stewart, David Freese, and John Jaso all have bench spots locked up. This leaves one bench spot, and it is a spot that Alen Hanson is not capable of filling.

The Pirates still need a backup shortstop for 2017. Whoever the backup shortstop winds up being will earn the fifth and final bench spot. And, unfortunately for him, that player will not be Alen Hanson due to his inability to handle shortstop defensively.

So, this leaves the question, what should the Pittsburgh Pirates do with Alen Hanson?

The most obvious option is to try and trade Hanson. The big problem with that is that, odds are, Alen Hanson does not have much trade value at this point. He can only play second base, his offense has progressively declined during his climb up the Minor League ladder, and there are questions about his attitude.

During his time with Double-A Altoona in 2013 and 2014 Hanson’s attitude came into question. As did his hustle on the field. On more than one occasion he was benched for lazy play or for issues in the clubhouse. This is not good baggage for any player to be carrying, but it is even worse for a player who has struggled so much offensively.

Another option is that Alen Hanson makes the team as a bench player. This could happen in a few different ways. One way would be the Pirates trading John Jaso. With Josh Bell as the team’s starting first baseman and David Freese also on the roster, there is no clear cut spot for Jaso other than as a pinch hitter. This could make him available on the trade market.

Also, the Pirates have been attempting to trade Josh Harrison all offseason. If they do trade Harrison, Adam Frazier becomes the team’s starting second baseman. This would free up a bench spot that Hanson could earn with a strong showing in Spring Training.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are in a tough spot with Alen Hanson. While, yes, he has struggled in recent years he still has the upside of being a good Major League second baseman. He is a plus defender at the position, and should be able to provide enough offense to make being an everyday player a possibility.

However, the Bucs have no clear cut spot for him on their roster and he is out of options. The Pirates will have to make some sort of decision on Alen Hanson between now and April 3rd. And I am curious to see what that decision is.