Hanson vs Gosselin: A Spring Training Competition

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

AnalysisPhil Gosselin and Alen Hanson have been glued together ever since the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Gosselin for Frank Duncan from the Arizona Diamondbacks on February 10.

It has long been assumed by Pirates fans that only one of the two will make the team, but that may change as David Freese looks more and more likely to be the opening day third baseman.  With that said, let’s run through to see who is more valuable.  Now it looks like Hanson and Gosselin could be battling for the final bench spot until Kang returns.

Phil Gosselin is a right-handed hitter who has experience playing in the Major Leagues, 216 games in four seasons between Atlanta and Arizona.  Last season he played in a career-high 122 games but produced just an 81 wRC+.  For his career, he is at a 93 wRC+, but that is inflated from the 136 wRC+ he posted in 2015.

Gosselin does not have much power, just a .102 career ISO.  He hits way too many groundballs, 54.7 percent throughout his career, but that has decreased each season, but those don’t come with the largest of samples.  He’s hit the ball with an exit velocity of just 86.7 miles per hour the last two years, where league average is 88.8 miles per hour.  His bat is not existent.

Gosselin’s Position Flexibility

Gosselin in his time has played all over the diamond, but mainly at second base.  He’s played 41 innings at first, 484 at second, 156.1 at third, 48.1 at short, and 37.1 in the outfield.  But the time at first base is huge.  The last two seasons, Clint Hurdle has used Sean Rodriguez as a safety valve at first base, replacing both Pedro Alvarez and John Jaso late in games.  Gosselin having time there could allow him to become Hurdle’s safety valve this season. At least this could be the case until Jung Ho Kang returns, at which point David Freese will take over.

The other thing helping Gosselin is his base running.  He’s produced 4.7 base running runs between both the majors and minors since 2014, but 3.6 of those came in 2014.  Still, 1.1 runs since 2015 are good enough to just be average.  He won’t hurt the team on the bases, but he won’t help the team either.


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Hanson is similar to Gosselin, a utility player who can not hit.  Since 2014 Hanson has posted a 103 wRC+ in the minors, and league average in the minors does not translate well to the majors.  He has posted a .134 ISO in this time period, showing he might have more pop than Gosselin.  Hanson is also a switch hitter, making him a better option than Phil as well.  But like Gosselin, Hanson is a groundball machine, producing a rate of 52.05 percent the last three years.

Hanson’s Best Tools

Hanson possesses speed, stealing 97 bags in the last three years, but only a stole base rate of 72 percent.  His base running leaves a lot to be desired, just 0.2 runs in the last three years.  However, he was at runs rate of 2.7 – including 0.5 in Pittsburgh – last season.  Hanson can change the game with his speed, something that Gosselin can’t.

Hanson also plays all over the field, seeing time at three of the four infield positions and left field.  He has never played first base before, which ultimately could be a negative given Hurdle’s past.

Gosselin and Hanson project as subpar bats, STEAMER gives Hanson a 78 wRC+ and Gosselin an 84 wRC+.  PECOTA’s weighted mean projection has Gosselin at a .250 TAv and Hanson at a .256 TAv.

Next: Pirates Back In WBC Action

Final Conclusion

Both of these players are super utility players with bad bats.  It will finally come down to if the Pirates feel a better hitter by about six percent and who can be a safety valve is more important than a player with speed and no options.  All of this could become irrelevant as the Kang saga continues on.  With that being said, given Hurdle’s history, if the Pirates had to pick only one, I would on it being Phil Gosselin and the team exposing Hanson on waivers.

*Numbers from Fangraphs, baseball savant, and baseball prospectus