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What should the Pirates do with Alen Hanson?

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MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees


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After two subpar years in Indianapolis, Alen Hanson likely knew his future with the Pirates organization hinged on making the big-league squad out of camp this year. That likelihood appeared even stronger when news of Jung Ho Kang’s visa denial broke, although Neal Huntington recently challenged that notion, saying,

Much like the pitchers, we’d had a number of guys that have stepped forward and are legitimate candidates for one of the final spots on the bench. ... Statistically, he’s having a nice spring, there’s still challenges, there’s still growing pains. He’s helped his cause, but we can’t say he’s absolutely locked his spot on the club right now.

While it is difficult to discern if Huntington’s words are more posturing or a reflection of those surprising spring performances (e.g. Jose Osuna), there’s little chance the team would be able to sneak Hanson through waivers. So: Is the team is better off keeping Hanson or shipping him out of town in a trade?

Quality bench piece with potential or trade fodder?

For Hanson, talent has never been the issue. He was once considered a consensus top 100 prospect, as well as a key part of the Pirates’ future infield, but his development stagnated somewhere along the way. He hasn’t even posted a slash line better than .266/.318/.389 since he was playing in Double-A in 2014, which is why his .378/.420/.489 line this spring comes as a nice surprise. Typical spring caveats apply, but it is certainly the type of production the team needed to see Hanson flash if he was going to justify his place on the Pittsburgh roster.

Hanson simply needed to show some signs of offensive life could carry over to the next level after looking overmatched at the plate last season in his cup of coffee with the Bucs, especially if he wants to utilize his speed. After all, no one else projected to be on the bench has the ability to run like Hanson does and that’s not a terrible reason to keep him around given his overall potential.

That speed also enables him to partake in the Pirates’ practice of carrying bench players capable of playing several positions, as he has lined up at the corner outfield spots, shortstop, second base, and third base over the last month. He isn’t spectacular defensively at any of those positions, but he has the range to give the team options.

Overall, Hanson won’t be a stellar option off the bench or necessarily even a better one than a few of the other choices, but between the speed and pedigree, it’s logical to keep him around to start the season since he has no minor league options and the others do. The catch is that his trade value may never again be as high as it is right now.

That isn’t to say Hanson is worth much on the trade market. But this spring has potentially restored a slight shine to his prospect gleam. Trade partners aren’t going to pay the same price for him they would have had to a few years ago, but right now, the possibility still remains that some team believes Hanson could one day be a starting second baseman who needed a change of scenery. If he spends two months riding the pine while struggling to hit in limited action, it’s going to shift the perception closer to disappointment, and it’s a heck of a lot harder to sell “total disappointment” than “what if.”

Hanson isn’t actually that great at the one thing setting him apart from the other bench options, stealing bases. Yes, he absolutely has thee speed and talent in that area, but as he’s shown this spring, he gets thrown out more frequently than other prolific speedsters. In fact, Hanson hasn’t been successful at a rate of more than 75 percent in a single one of the past five seasons, which is to say that he hasn’t reached the break-even point for success rate where benefit outweighs the cost for a team. That is startling when factored with the knowledge that those poor numbers were at the hands of minor league pitchers and catchers.

Additionally, Hanson doesn’t play proficient defense anywhere that the other bench players do not, and the team could arguably benefit more from someone in his spot who can play either center field or shortstop. Hanson was forced from shortstop several seasons ago and didn’t look particularly sharp in brief action there this spring, and according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the team prefers Adam Frazier or Phil Gosselin over Hanson at the position anyway.

This essentially relegates Hanson to more of a last-resort option who brings minimal defensive value and unproven hitting ability. Wouldn’t Osuna, Gift Ngoepe, or Max Moroff offer more to the team than Hanson? Granted, those guys aren’t proven commodities either, so it could be that the team just elects to open up the position to acquire another player via free agency or trade.

Regardless, the Pirates seem to be leaning towards keeping Hanson, but what do you think the team should do with him?

Poll

What do you think the team should do with Alen Hanson?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Keep Him
    (843 votes)
  • 42%
    Trade Him
    (760 votes)
  • 10%
    Try to sneak him through waivers
    (185 votes)
1788 votes total Vote Now