Alen Hanson appears to be a much better hitter at the same age as Starlin Castro was at age 19. Castro spent the majority of his age 19 season in A+ ball and put up a .731 OPS there in 96 games before being promoted to AA at the end of the season. He would get called up to the Majors straight from AA the next season. Hanson, at age 19, has a ridiculous .990 OPS prior to today at A ball. While A+ is a little more difficult, it certainly doesn't account for the incredible 260 point differential. Hanson's bat - for a shortstop - is probably a lot closer to Major League ready than we are giving him credit for. He should be in A+ by now, if not AA.
Now I know I am in the minority when it comes to "rushing" prospects. Some people may look at the fact that Starlin Castro is not as good a hitter as Miguel Cabrera and say that is because he was rushed through the Minors. However, I think this "not rushing" prospects has gotten a little absurd with Hanson. Castro flew through the Minors. Albert Pujols played one year in the Minors, mostly in A ball, crushed it, and made the team the next year out of spring training. I realize these are very rare exceptions, and I shouldn't be comparing Pujols to anyone. But Hanson IS putting up those kind of numbers. He clearly IS the exception to the traditional development path.
I know Hanson needs to work on his defense, and that's where this gets tricky. If we did fast-track him through the Minors, the only spot for him in the infield is at SS, with Walker and Pedro manning second and third. But his bat is so absurd at this point, he could be below average defensively at SS and still have value. In fact, if he totally bombs in the infield, he might have value in right field. I'd keep him in the Minors for a few extra years before I moved him to the OF, I'm just making a point about just how good his bat has been.
I respect the Pirates' conservative approach to prospects. I get that development is very important. But at the same time, one can't help but wonder if the Pirates are taking a cookie-cutter approach and missing out on the possibility of adding at great hitting shortstop to the lineup as early as next season. A 20-year-old Starlin Castro would be a huge upgrade over a 32-year-old Clint Barmes. I think a 20-year-old Alen Hanson could as well. Even if he doesn't take the Starlin Castro route to the Majors, I hope he isn't more than a year behind.