Prospect Notebook: Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco Team Up To Trounce Tampa

Alen Hanson

Alen Hanson (Photo by Cliff Welch)

If you’re looking for the best pair of position prospects on a minor league club, you can take a look at Triple-A Tacoma, where Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino hit in the same lineup. Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson roam the same outfield in Double-A Chattanooga and Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick cover plenty of ground in Double-A Jacksonville’s outfield.

But the combination of shortstop Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco with high Class A Bradenton is hard to top as far as prospect duos, which they showed again on Wednesday.

Polanco, who ranked 51st on the Baseball America preseason Top 100 Prospects list, went 4-for-5 with a double and his sixth home run of the season. Hanson, ranked 61st on the Top 100, went 4-for-5 with a double, two triples and two stolen bases. For Polanco, the big day was a continuation of what’s been an excellent start to his 2013 season. For Hanson, it’s another sign that he’s put a slow start behind him. Hanson is hitting .388 with eight extra base hits in his past 13 games, raising his batting average 50 points to .287 and his slugging percentage nearly 100 points to .409.

Jose Ramirez, rhp, Yankees: Ramirez was one of the stars of spring training for the Yankees, as a mid-to-high 90s fastball gets plenty of notice in short stints. Some of Ramirez’s warts (command problems at times, too many deep counts against hitters and a lack of deception to his delivery) are less apparent in spring training.

To his credit, Ramirez has built off of his solid 2012 Florida State League season by being arguably Double-A Trenton’s ace this season. The Yankees have been very cautious with his workload, holding him to 80 pitches or so, which explains why he’s only worked five innings in three of his six starts this season.

But on Wednesday, Ramirez’s control deserted him completely for the first time this season. He gave up five walks in only 1 2/3 innings, eventually being lifted after he walked three batters and gave up a two-run double in the second inning. While Ramirez’s command still needs to improve, his control troubles on Wednesday are uncharacteristic of the righthander’s normal stuff. Ramirez had walked only five batters in his first five starts—while he’s sometimes wild in the zone, he rarely has trouble throwing strikes.

Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Diamondbacks: If you just take a glance at Skaggs’ stat line you may think he’s having an awful year. After all, 4-5, 5.23 isn’t exactly begging for a big league promotion.

But when you talk to scouts about Skaggs’ start, you don’t find anyone who’s all that worried. They note that he pitches in the highly inflated offensive environs of Reno, that his stuff is still much of what it was when he was dominating last year, and that his peripheral stats (54 strikeouts, 17 walks, 54 hits allowed in 52 innings) are right in line with what he’s done in the past.

On the road, Skaggs is 4-1, 3.45 this year. At home in Reno, he’s 0-4, 7.97. It’s the ballpark that’s doing Skaggs in.

Pitching in the relatively neutral environment of Round Rock, Skaggs offered another reminder of why he’s one of the best pitching prospects in baseball no matter his current ERA. The lefty struck out 10 Express hitters while allowing two runs, one earned, in 7 2/3 innings of work.

Albert Almora, of, Cubs: After missing the first six weeks of the season with a broken hamate bone, Almora made his 2013 debut on Wednesday with low Class A Peoria. He showed very little rust. Almora went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Often, hamate injuries sap a hitter’s power for a while even after he returns, and Almora was more of a line-drive hitter than slugger already. Don’t expect to see a lot of home runs in the next few weeks from the Cubs’ 2012 first-round pick, but do expect to see plenty of quality at-bats.

Matt McBride, of/c, Rockies: Just as Skaggs’ high ERA is in part explained by where he plays, McBride’s current .388/.426/.800 line is partly a product of playing at Colorado Springs. But McBride is taking full advantage of the tendency for balls to carry in the thin air of the Western side of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. McBride hit a pair of home runs and doubled as part of a 5-for-5 day on Wednesday.

McBride projects as a potentially useful bench bat in the big leagues, in large part because he can catch enough to serve as a third catcher/corner outfield/first base backup. He’s not as good as his current stat line would seem to suggest, but he is doing enough to earn another shot at the big leagues at some point in 2013.