By Jason Shetler
Back in 2009, Alen Hanson signed with the Pirates out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old. He made his professional debut the following year, playing for the Pirates Dominican Summer League affiliate.
Hanson played his first full season with the West Virginia Power in 2012, and had a breakout year, as he batted .309 along with a .909 OPS and stole 35 bases. Entering the 2013 season, he was rated a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com, and remained on both lists in 2014.
For as good as Hanson was offensively for a shortstop, there were questions about his defense, which prompted the Pirates to have him play more second base last year with the Indianapolis Indians.
Despite a good showing in Spring Training this year, Hanson did not make the club. The biggest reason being Super 2. He received his call up in May, replacing Starling Marte who was on paternity leave. In his second game, he collected his first big league hit as a pinch-hitter. Once Marte returned, Hanson was optioned back to Indianapolis. He rejoined the Pirates on the final day of August.
The 2017 season will be an important one for Hanson. Because it’s unlikely that Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez are going to re-sign with the Pirates, it would be nice to see Hanson replace one of them as an internal option. Not long ago, he was a Top 5 prospect in the system, so he needs to show that he contribute with the Pirates. Since Hanson wouldn’t have to compete for an everyday job, he just needs to perform well enough in Spring Training for a bench role. While I’m not suggesting that failing to make the 2017 Opening Day roster will “make or break” Hanson’s career, it would however be beneficial for him to be a vital part of the Pirates in some capacity sooner rather than later.