Youth, speed, dynamism, and power are all qualities the San Francisco Giants have lacked over the last few seasons, especially on their bench.
But out of seemingly nowhere, the San Francisco Giants have found someone who could help in those coveted categories and play multiple positions too–Alen Hanson.
Second base? You bet! Third? No sweat. Left field? No problem.
After starting off shaky on the field at the start of 2018, Hanson has improved defensively. He’s showing athleticism on the field and has been a plus defender at the positions he plays.
The Giants signed Hanson as a minor-league free agent in the offseason. He did not figure to be a big part of the team this season, but injuries to Joe Panik, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, Mac Williamson, and the ineffectiveness of Austin Jackson enabled him to seize a long-term role on the team.
Right away, he showed speed and a dynamic ability, something the Giants have been lacking since their downturn starting in the second half of 2016.
Despite being a highly touted prospect, both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago White Sox let Hanson go, largely due to his shaky defense. The Giants took a chance on the 25-year-old this season and it’s paid off.
Hanson, who was signed by the Pirates in 2009 as an amateur free agent, is a career .281 hitter in the minor leagues. So the ability, and potential to do better, is definitely there for him.
This season, he’s hitting .259 with eight home runs and 39 RBI in 270 at-bats. He has stolen seven bases in 10 tries. His WAR is 0.8 — not bad for a role player.
Before coming to the Giants, Hanson had been a .222 hitter, with four home runs in 248 at-bats. He had an on-base percentage of just .263 over two seasons with the Pirates and White Sox.
With the Sacramento River Cats, he was hitting .403 with three home runs and a .479 on-base percentage in 62 at-bats before he was called up in late April. He slugged .661 and had a 1.140 OPS down in Triple-A.
But one of his best series came in Atlanta, where he hit .429 (6-for-14) with three doubles, a homer, and 5 RBI in the three-game set. His bat helped the Giants sweep the Braves, back when there was more optimism in the 2018 season.
And perhaps his best moment was his ninth-inning, game-tying home run on June 6 against the Arizona Diamondbacks–for the nation to see on Facebook no less.
So, with his five-tool ability, what’s holding Hanson back from a starting spot?
He has his flaws, especially focusing at times.
Here’s what Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow had to say on KNBR on Wednesday morning:
"“I don’t think anybody is a lock for next year, I think it’s at that point right now,” Krukow began. “In regards to Alen Hanson, he’s a five-tool guy. Well why hasn’t he been in the big leagues prior to this? He’s 25-years old with eight years experience, and he hit .280 his whole career in the minor leagues. With all those tools why has it taken him so long? Now that we’ve seen him, I think he loses concentration on the field."
Krukow added that Hanson needs to show more consistency on the field before he can grab a starting role.
And CBS Sports’ scouting report reiterates his raw talent, but he still has things to work on.
"Hanson generated a fair amount of buzz as a prospect in the Pirates’ system, but he hasn’t been able to hit or get on base enough (.263 OBP) at the highest level to allow his speed to play. He walked at a 5.1 percent clip and had a dismal 21.3 percent hard-hit rate in 106 games between the Bucs and White Sox last season."
Another appealing thing about Hanson–he only costs the major league minimum of $500,000. With the Giants right up against the luxury tax threshold and looking to spend their way out of this 2.5-season rut, any contributor making the minimum will go a long way for the Giants fielding a winning team in 2019.
Despite the occasional flaws, Hanson will continue to get better and hopefully learn to do the little things that can help win ball games.