The Pittsburgh Pirates promoted infielder Alen Hanson to the big league roster yesterday; he got one at-bat in the game against the Atlanta Braves, striking out. More chances will come obviously, so let's take a look at what he offers.
Hanson was signed by the Pirates out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010. His breakthrough as a prospect came in 2012 when he hit .309/.381/.528 with 33 doubles, 13 triples, 16 homers, and 35 steals in 489 at-bats for West Virginia in the Low-A South Atlantic League. His 2013 and 2014 seasons weren't quite as impressive but were still reasonably solid. Last year he played for Triple-A Indianapolis, hitting .263/.313/.387 with six homers, 35 steals, 37 walks, 91 strikeouts in 475 at-bats.
His reputation has waned a bit over the years. From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Alen Hanson, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bats: S Throws: R HT: 5-11 WT: 170 DOB: October 22, 1992
2012: Grade C; 2013: Grade B+; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade B
On the surface, not much has changed with Alen Hanson. He still shows sparks of power, particularly to the gaps, and he still runs very well. Sometimes he controls the strike zone well. Other times he is too aggressive. He’s done a good job adapting defensively to second base and he added innings at third base, enhancing his versatility. For all that, his reputation in the game has continued a slow but steady decline thanks to persistent doubts about his makeup; it is notable that the Pirates did not call him up when they needed an infielder. I still like Hanson’s tools, he is still young, and he’s made some progress with his skills, but the factors that hold him back are intangible things that he may grow out of, or not. Grade B-.
Hanson hit .288/.308/.388 in 118 at-bats for Indianapolis before moving up this year, collecting seven steals, four walks, and 29 strikeouts in 118 at-bats. He's continued to add more defensive versatility, seeing innings in left field this spring with viable results. Overall the reports on his tools and skills haven't changed: he has some pop and runs well, but his ability to control the strike zone comes and goes.
The big factor with Hanson remains makeup concerns: his energy on the field varies with his mood and when he isn't happy it shows in his effort level, or at least it did in 2015. It is notable that the Pirates did promote him this time when they needed a bat; people can grow up pretty quickly at his age. If everything works out on the makeup side, Hanson's combination of speed, occasional pop, and positional flexibility should make him a valuable super-utility type.
Here he tags a pitch to right field for a home run earlier this month.