Is The White Sox’ Alec Hansen Emerging As A Top Pitching Prospect Or A Disaster In Waiting?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The White Sox have accumulated a lot of prospects, and that depth has allowed 2016 second round pick Alec Hansen to fly relatively under-the-radar.  That’s about to change, as he’s recently been promoted to Double-A and has posted gaudy strikeout numbers in his first full professional season.  Among the minor league leaders, he has shown his stuff at two levels of Single-A thus far:

  • Single-A (72.2 IP) – 2.48 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 11.39 K/9, 2.85 BB/9
  • High-A (58.1 IP) – 2.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 12.65 K/9, 3.86 BB/9

The 22-year old always had the potential to move quickly, with the biggest question being whether or not the 6’7” righty could consistently throw strikes.  As MLB.com stated:

“Hansen doesn’t always show that kind of arsenal and has little history of throwing strikes because his upper and lower halves get out of sync in his delivery and he doesn’t stay online to the plate. Chicago kept things simple in his pro debut, having him focus on staying taller and getting the ball out of his glove more quickly, and the results were impressive.”

That’s always a question for a pitcher this size, and it’s notable that he took a step backwards upon his first promotion.  It will be something to monitor, though he had walked 2 or fewer in four of his last five starts at High-A (the exception being 5 BB in his final start at the level).  There also has been health questions hanging over him, as MLB.com said:

“He does come with some health concerns because some scouts worry about his mechanics, and he missed the fall before his junior year with forearm tightness.”

Then again, what pitcher doesn’t come with the risk of injury?

Prior to the season Prospect 361 made an intriguing comparison when it comes to Hansen and his upside:

“When watching him pitch, it’s easy to dream that you’re looking at Tyler Glasnow 2.0, although he’s a bit heavier.  They have similar stuff and size and both struggle to repeat their delivery.  However, to-date, Glasnow has found at least 45-grade control and it remains to be seen whether Hansen will.

You can argue that Hansen has already flashed that type of control, but he needs to be better if he really wants to emerge as a true top prospect.  We’ve seen Glasnow stumble in the Majors, thanks mainly to his control, and Hansen could easily follow a similar path.  What compounds it is the lack of groundball stuff he’s shown:

  • Single-A – 30.4%
  • High-A – 36.0%

Poor control + potential home run issues is a recipe for disaster.  The stuff is intriguing and it will be interesting to see how it plays at Double-A, but for now it remains to be seen exactly how he’s able to develop.

Preseason Grade – B
Current Grade – B (you could argue B- given the concerns)

Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Prospect 361

Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!

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