2018 SSS Top Prospect ranking: 4
SSS rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 4
Hansen, a native of Loveland, Colo., had quite an interesting three years with the Oklahoma Sooners. As a reliever, he actually walked more than a batter per inning. His sophomore season was far better, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.45 WHIP with 44 walks (4.83 BB/9) and 94 strikeouts (10.32 K/9) in his first year in the rotation; there were many scouts who thought he could be the first pick in the 2016 draft if he could limit his walks further due to the amazing stuff he possessed. However, this wasn’t meant to be, as he suffered a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in his junior season, allowing 39 walks (6.79 BB/9) in 51 2⁄3 innings while striking out 75 hitters (13.06 K/9); as a result, he was banished to the bullpen late in the season. However, the White Sox saw an opportunity to buy low, and selected him in the second round that year, signing him to a $1.2 million bonus.
Hansen pitched for three teams in 2016 (AZL, Great Falls, and Kannapolis) but spent the majority of his time with the Voyagers. What he did in the high altitude of the Pioneer League that year was incredible. In seven starts for Great Falls totaling 36 2⁄3 innings, he posted a tiny 1.23 ERA and 0.65 WHIP, allowing just 12 hits (.102 OBA) and 12 walks (2.95 BB/9) while striking out 59 (14.48 K/9). In 2017, Hansen again pitched for three teams (Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham), throwing 141 1⁄3 innings over 26 starts, and combined to post a rock-solid 2.80 ERA and 1.17 WHIP; he allowed just 114 hits (.216 OBA) and 51 walks (3.25 BB/9) while striking out a minor league-high 191 (12.16 K/9).
Hansen moved into sixth among White Sox prospects (59th overall) according to MLB Pipeline to begin 2018. After a successful two-year run in the Sox organization, what could go wrong? Well, everything.
Hansen suffered a forearm injury during spring training, which shut him down until June 16. When he returned to Birmingham, his mechanics were out of whack and his control (and numbers) suffered badly as a result. He still missed bats, as he fanned 35 hitters (8.83 K/9) and allowed just 30 hits (.238 OBA) in 35 2⁄3 innings spanning nine starts; unfortunately, he also walked 42 hitters (10.60 BB/9), which shot his ERA and WHIP up to 6.56 and 2.02, respectively. As a result, Hansen was demoted to Winston-Salem, where his results weren’t much better over five starts (5.74 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, .250 OBA, 9.77 BB/9, 11.49 K/9). By the end of the year, Hansen dropped to 10th on the MLB Pipeline White Sox prospect list.
With someone as large as Hansen, mechanics always will be a concern. He has a 96-99 mph fastball with a significant downhill plane and running action, 12-6 curveball, power slider, and improving changeup that was actually more effective in Double-A ball than it was for Winston-Salem. Hansen is a classic high-ceiling, low-floor pitcher thanks to his command. When throwing strikes like he did in 2016 and 2017 in the White Sox organization, he’s basically unhittable. If not throwing strikes, he really wouldn’t be suitable for even a bullpen role — certainly not when he’s walking more than a hitter per inning.
Hansen took time off this past offseason to help improve his mental focus and avoid any damage to his elbow. This year will be absolutely huge for him — returning to form, could get him to Charlotte by the end of the year.
Hansen opened the season in Winston-Salem and quickly burned through Single-A+ ball, pitching just nine games (2.13 ERA, 0.632 WHIP) before a promotion to Birmingham. With the Barons so far this spring, Hansen has pitched in six games to 3.68 ERA, and proven wilder (7.4 BB/9 vs. 5.0 in W-S) and more hittable (9.8 H/9 vs. 0.7). In a small sample size, his innings per game are getting shorter, not longer, so stretching out back into starting doesn’t look like it will be happening this season, if ever.
Take a look!
Thanks to 2080 Baseball for the footage.
Video by FanGraphs.
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