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2021 South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 56: Alec Hansen

Struggles have continued for the tall flamethrower, but upside remains

Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

Alec Hansen

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
235 pounds
Age: 26
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 7
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Rank: 37
2019 SSS Top Prospect Rank: 17
2028 SSS Top Prospect Rank: 4

As a member of an Oklahoma Sooners staff that also included future White Sox pitching farmhands J.B. Olson and Jake Elliott, Hansen was actually considered a candidate for the first overall pick in the 2016 draft — that is, until control issues got the best of him. In 14 appearances (10 starts) in his junior season, he compiled a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP by relinquishing 44 hits (.228 OBA) and 39 walks (16.2%) while striking out 75 (31.0%) in 51 2/3 innings.

The White Sox, recognizing his vast upside, selected Hansen in the second round of that year’s draft. He immediately paid dividends, as he combined with three teams (AZL, Great Falls and Kannapolis) to post an incredible 1.32 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 54 23 innings by allowing just 24 hits (.133 OBA) and 20 walks (9.7%) while fanning 81 (39.3%) to finish the 2016 campaign.

Hansen enjoyed an incredible 2017 with Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham in which he combined for a 2.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 141 13 innings as he relinquished 114 hits (.216 OBA) and 51 walks (8.6%) while striking out an amazing 191 hitters (32.4%).

Unfortunately, a 2018 spring training forearm injury led to mechanical issues that ultimately impacted his already-tenuous control and command. He lost all semblance of the plate, and walked more than a hitter per inning. He was eventually demoted to Winston-Salem but with similar disappointing results. Overall for this lost season, he posted a 6.31 ERA and 2.01 WHIP over 14 starts; in his 51 13 innings, Hansen allowed 44 hits (.242 OBA) and 59 walks (24.0%) while striking out 55 (22.4%).

In nine relief appearances with Winston-Salem to begin 2019, Hansen looked like his old self with a 2.13 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 44.7 K%. However, Hansen again struggled throwing strikes once he was promoted to Birmingham on May 4. In 30 appearances for the Barons totaling 39 23 innings, he compiled a 5.45 ERA and 2.02 WHIP by relinquishing 43 hits (.281 OBA) and 37 walks (19.1%) while striking out 45 (23.2%). Extremely notable is that Hansen did have one start for Birmingham and it turned out disastrously: he allowed four earned runs with five walks and a hit while only getting one out.

Had he been battling injuries? Has he been suffering mechanical issues (not uncommon for someone his size), simply rushing his delivery? Is it a lack of confidence, or is he simply trying too hard? Perhaps it’s some combination of all the above.

Despite his struggles, Hansen has a fastball that is graded 65, thanks to a 94-99 mph velocity with running action A 55-grade curveball, as well as a slider and changeup, complete his repertoire.

The tall fireballer likely will return to Birmingham for the 2021 season.