Last year Alen Hanson raked. He and Polonco were no longer just secrets only held by Pirate fans, EVERYONE started to catch on. Before the year was up they started appearing on Top75 prospect lists and some Top50’s.
As we already know Polonco has continued his meteoric rise while Hanson has fallen off a bit. No surprise now that Hanson’s name is being dropped by not only broad stroking media but surprisingly enough, also intelligent Pirate fans, as trade bait for the likes of Matt Garza or a Kendrys Morales.
Now, I’m not against acquiring anyone being bantered about (with the exception of Alexi Ramirez). I am however against acquiring anyone to fix a short term need at the expense of a long term one when that long term need is one where it could put a team over the top for seven years relatively cheap, not a couple of months at premium dollars. Trading Hanson now just doesn’t make good business sense. You’re trading a talented prospect in the midst of an off year that is super young, for someone who is on the downside of their career & is facing regression.
If there is one thing that keeps me “up at night” as a baseball fan it’s the “what could have been”. Call it the Jose Batista syndrome. Now, this thinking exclusively could also paralyze a team. Being that most prospects fail to reach the big leagues anyway, let alone stick or succeed, exchanging those odds for proven major league talent NOW, even in the short term makes sense in many cases. However, it’s a case by case basis and in my opinion Alan Hanson should be untouchable for what he very well could become.
In what he could become, in my mind, you have to go back to 1995.
This was the year where a 5-10 190lb shortstop we will call “Player A” came with the same concerns Hanson does now: Plus bat but too many concerns he wouldn’t stick at SS and have to be moved. Much like Hanson, Player A made many of his mistakes in routine plays while made many sensational ones look easy.
In Player A’s three seasons before his call up he made 26, 44 and 36 errors respectively. Hanson has actually seen his defense take a major turn for the better posting a significant increase in fielding percentage 17 fewer errors. Sure, you might say to yourself “its only July” but Hanson is only 32 chances from reaching last year’s total and has already surpasses last year’s assist numbers already. He has also increased his range significantly. So at this point, Hanson is ahead defensively, not to mention two years younger. Any questions of him sticking at SS should be no longer relevant.
Baseball America had “Player A” Pre- 1996 ranking at #88. After putting up a slash of .279/.459/.810 with 20 HR’s and 27 SB’s he moved up on Baseball Americas preseason list to #6 after his season in High A in his Age 22 season.
Hanson entered this year ranked #61 by B.A. in his Age 20 season in High A. While Hanson wont hit 20+ homers this year he is also 2 years younger and 40lbs lighter.
Hanson is a better base stealer. A better fielder at this point. Both players are not patient at the plate, so that’s a wash. The only thing that separates them is hitting. While Player A is clearly a better long ball hitter (50-21), Hanson despite 500 less plate appearances compared to Player A, has seven more doubles than Player A and six more triples. Again, this is 500 less plate appearances!? When you factor in that 40lb weight and 2 years of age differences, it’s completely realistic and projectable that Hanson will turn many of those extra base hits into homeruns when he starts to mature.
Forget the fact that the Pirates brass never even knew the 12-15 year window of the five tool shortstop existed, let alone looked through it. Ignore the overwhelming failure of trying to produce one, just one homegrown SS to be anything more than replacement level (save maybe Jordy Mercer) despite at least a dozen or so every year at the various levels auditioning by default.
Disregard all of that.
If there is any reason for not trading Alan Hanson, let it be because he’s just too talented, too young and too rare to come across to trade away in what looks to be a down year because you want to add a short term fix to the big club. Matt Garza, Alex Rios, Kendrys Morales etc etc. All the names we hear bantered about connected to the Pirates are a “who’s who” of 30+ year old role players. Is this going to put the Pirates over the top this year? Would Garza even make a 3 man playoff rotation competing with the current staff? I doubt it.
For the first time in over 20 years there is an established pipeline of tangible talent. To sacrifice any of that substantial tangible talent especially in areas where you lack at the big club and below (infield) would be asinine.
Alen Hanson may never quite replicate former MVP Miguel Tejada (Player A) but for the Pirates and all their fascination with projectability and potential, is there anyone with more to grow literally and figuratively as a hitter in the system than Hanson? Is trading for a mid-rotation 2-month rental in Garza worth a potential Miguel Tejada? Bring on the Derek Lee’s trades. Or a Wandy type trade. The Pirates need to continue to stay the course and make no major moves.
Typical Yinzer fan, hates this idea. He wants to load the MLB deck… until the Bucs look like the WhiteSox, a hollowed out carcass rotting on the side of the road. But fans that follow the system understand… many of these players we know and love now won’t be there in seven years, maybe even five. Just can’t afford them. We can only hope to extend a few in each phase. Thus the minors are the lifeblood to a small market team. Dilson Herrera is 19 and plays 2B. Hanson is 20 and plays SS. These guys do not grow on trees .
It’s like the old adage about the young and old bull on the top of the hill. The young bull says “lets run down there and get us a heifer.” The old bull says “why run down for one when we can walk down and get them all?” Windows of multiple championships are always better than a window of just one.