Tommy Hanson was drafted by the Braves in the 22nd round in 2005, a draft-and-follow pick from Riverside CC in California. He signed and made his pro debut in 2006, going 4-1, 2.09 with a 56/9 K/BB ratio in 51 innings for Danville in the Appalachian League, showing excellent control of a fastball/curveball/changeup combination. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2007 book, but noted that he had higher potential and that there was a chance he could break through in '07 and '08, possibly emerging as a top prospect.
Hanson began 2007 with Rome in the Sally League, going 2-6 but with a 2.59 ERA and a 90/26 K/BB in 73 innings, with just 51 hits allowed. Promoted to Myrtle Beach at mid-season, he went 3-3, 4.20 with a 64/32 K/BB in 60 innings. The main negative here was an elevated home run rate at Myrtle Beach, with 10 homers given up in just 11 starts and 60 innings. Nevertheless, I was impressed with him and gave him a Grade B+ in the book this year, a grade for which I took some flack. Most people seemed to think he was more of a Grade B/B- type guy.
2008 has been great so far: 3-1, 0.79 for Myrtle Beach, with a 42/10 K/BB in 34 innings and just 14 hits allowed, zero homers. Yes he's repeating the league, but given the way he's dominated so far I imagine a promotion to Double-A will be in order shortly and we'll get a better read on his progress then. He's just 21 so although he's a league-repeater he isn't old for the competition by any means.
Hanson is a big guy at 6-6, 210 pounds but he keeps his mechanics in gear most of the time. His fastball is solid at 89-92 MPH, with movement. His curveball is excellent and he's made significant improvements with his changeup. My only real concern here is that he's very much a fly ball pitcher, which could leave him vulnerable to excessive gophers at higher levels.
It's too early to draw comparisons to other pitchers, but if he stays healthy I think Hanson projects as a number three starter. If he can pick up a bit more consistent velocity and maintain his command, he could exceed that. Let's see what happens when he hits Double-A. Does his strikeout rate stay steady? Do the home runs come back? These are the two main questions for me.