The other night in Kannapolis I was fortunate to be on hand as Alec Hansen made his Class A debut against the Columbia Fireflies. A little background research on Hansen will tell you he is a premier prospect who battled issues with command and control while pitching at Oklahoma and his draft stock fell when he was relegated to the bullpen during his junior year. Once thought of as a potential top five draft pick due to his overpowering raw stuff, Hansen fell to the White Sox who picked him as the 49th overall draft choice (second round).
Due to the control issues exhibited in college (96 walks in 145 innings) over three seasons; scouts saw Hansen as a project with a very high ceiling. After the draft he was assigned to the White Sox Arizona League affiliate where his electric repertoire earned him a line of (7 IP 1 H 4 BB 11 SO and a 0.00 ERA) in three starts. With Great Falls in the Pioneer League he continued to impose his will upon opposing hitters (36.2 IP 12 H 12 BB 59 SO and a 1.23 ERA) over seven starts. Last night the Alec Hansen assault on the SAL began, here were my first impressions.
Hansen was the first Intimidator on the field, he is very recognizable due to his height and massive wing span. He is listed as 6’7” 235, a build reminiscent of Pittsburgh Pirates uber-prospect Tyler Glasnow. For a very tall 21 year old he is built rather sturdily, not long, awkward, and gangly, but rather solid and athletic looking. He uses his long levers to deliver the ball from a high, three quarters arm slot. His windup begins with a very pronounced leg kick that brings his left knee high above his belt, and ends with a long stride toward the plate and a balanced finish. He blows up the radar gun with frequency without using a max effort delivery. During this start his velocity sat between 93-95 touching 97 when he reached back for a little extra.
The breaking pitches were on display last night. The best word I can use to describe the slider I saw was “devastating” quite possibly the best I have seen at any SAL game this season. He seemed to possess great confidence in the pitch and his command of it. The Columbia hitters were continuously befuddled by the slider as it was nearly untouchable. Hansen’s pitching line for the effort was (5 IP 5 H 2 BB 6 SO and 3 ER). The numbers don’t tell the true story though. One of the “hits” was a fly ball that the right fielder clearly lost in the lights, he was running in and the ball landed twenty feet behind him, the second baseman was also motioning that he had lost site of the ball as the two were converging. There were also two plays at home plate that may have prevented runs had the catcher been able to cleanly handle the throw. The Intimidators defense coupled with their base running miscues cost Hansen a win.
The control has always been the Achilles heel in Hansen’s game. On Friday night Hansen’s fastball was the pitch that he was having the hardest time controlling. I will suggest however, that he was not all over the place as one might expect. He wasn’t air mailing pitches to the back stop or burying the ball in the dirt, just missing his spots and catching too much of the plate when behind in the count. The Fireflies hitters did manage to make loud contact on multiple occasions, but I do not recall any hitter barreling up a pitch to their pull side throughout the night (I could be wrong).
Overall, I was very impressed with Hansen. He’s got a power pitcher’s body, an explosive fastball and very advanced secondary pitches. It is no wonder why several scouts suggested that he had possibly the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the 2016 draft. The delivery and pitching motion don’t throw any red flags that would indicate impending health concerns, and his command must have made great strides with professional coaching. Last night I feel like I saw a future top of the rotation starter or at worst case scenario a power closer. White Sox fans will want to follow Hansen as he progresses and works his way toward the south side of Chicago, he is going to be a good one.