By Jason Shetler
Over the last few years, Alen Hanson has been the Pirates top middle infield prospect in the system. He didn’t join the big club this year due to the Pirates deep infield depth. Even with the injury to Jung-Ho Kang down the stretch, the Pirates were fortunate to have good infield depth to take his place with Aramis Ramirez and Josh Harrison. That depth has been thinned down currently with the retirement of Ramirez and the trade of Neil Walker to the New York Mets.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington mentioned at PirateFest that Hanson would be considered for the Pirates Opening Day roster. Hanson didn’t have a real strong season this year with AAA Indianapolis, as he batted .263 with a .701 OPS. However, he was a real speed threat with 35 stolen bases, and showed very good range at second base, which would make him a definite upgrade over Walker in that regard. So should Hanson make the 2016 Opening Day roster?
Because the Pirates don’t have many legitimate infield depth options right now, you could make a case for Hanson being with them to begin the season. Like pretty much all clubs in baseball however, the Pirates aren’t big on calling up rookies before the Super 2 deadline in mid-June, which causes a team to lose an extra year of free agency with that player. It also depends on who they decide to bring in as a free agent or by trade. For example, if the Pirates decide to sign someone like Kelly Johnson as a free agent, who was an above league average hitter in 2015, then he would be used as an everyday regular until Kang returns, and Hanson would begin 2016 in AAA. If they settle for a Sean Rodriguez reunion, then Hanson might have a better chance since Rodriguez is too anemic offensively, despite his good defensive play. Either way, Hanson has the tools to help out the Pirates moving forward.