- Full name Thomas J. Hanson
- Born 08/28/1986 in Tulsa, OK
- Died 11/09/2015 in Atlanta, GA
- Profile Ht.: 6'6" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Riverside City College
- Debut 06/07/2009
Drafted in the 22nd round (677th overall) by the Atlanta Braves in 2005 (signed for $325,000).
View Draft ReportHansen originally enrolled at Sacramento State before transferring to Riverside. His best pitch is a sinking 86-87 mph fastball that tops out at 92.
Organization Prospect Rankings
One of the team's big finds in the now-extinct draft-and-follow process, Hanson signed with the Braves for $325,000 in 2006 while turning down an opportunity to pitch at Arizona State. He made tremendous strides transforming from a thrower to a pitcher in 2007 under the tutelage of the late Bruce Dal Canton, his pitching coach at high Class A Myrtle Beach. Hanson broke out as one of the baseball's top pitching prospects in 2008. He dominated in a return to Myrtle Beach to start the season and easily handled a promotion to Double-A Mississippi, where he tossed a no-hitter with a career-best 14 strikeouts on June 25. He concluded the regular season leading the minors in opponent average (.175) and ranking second in strikeouts per nine innings (10.6) and fourth in strikeouts (163). Hanson capped his year by winning the pitching triple crown in the Arizona Fall League, going 5-0, 0.63 with 49 strikeouts in 29 innings. He also limited hitters in the offensive-oriented loop to a .105 average. After displaying a tendency to rely on his fastball early in his minor league career, Hanson has developed four quality pitches that he throws for strikes. His moving fastball resides in the low to mid-90s and explodes in on the hands of righthanders. He added a hard slider in the upper 80s midway through last season, which brought about comparisons to John Smoltz's best offering while taking Hanson's considerable potential to a higher level. His overhand 12-to-6 curveball is a plus pitch that makes his slider even more difficult for hitters to diagnose. His changeup is at least major league average and has improved impressively over the past two years. Hanson mixes his pitches well, uses both sides of the plate and does an outstanding job of altering the eye level of hitters. He hides the ball well in his delivery, making him even tougher to hit. He displays impressive poise with a strong mound presence. He uses his height to his advantage by pitching on a steep downhill plane and challenges hitters throughout the lineup. The key to Hanson's success is working ahead in the count. While his slider has become his best pitch, he must establish his fastball command and use all of his pitches. The few difficult outings he had in Double-A came when he issued too many walks and became too fine in the strike zone, giving hitters a chance to make more hard contact than usual. The Braves believe Hanson is a future ace, which GM Frank Wren made clear early in the offseason when he refused to include the righthander in any trade talks, even those involving Jake Peavy. Though not a finished product, Hanson is getting close to joining the big league rotation. The trade for Javier Vazquez increased the odds that Hanson will open 2009 at the club's new Triple-A Gwinnett County affiliate, but he should make his major league debut before season's end.
Hanson entered pro ball a year before Rohrbough, passing up the chance to attend Arizona State to sign for $325,000. Hanson won just five games in his first full pro season, but pitched well at two Class A stops. Hanson throws three pitches for strikes: an 89-92 fastball with above-average life, a nasty overhand curveball with tight spin and 12-to-6 break, and an average changeup that continues to improve. He has a strong mound presence, the frame to throw on a steep downhill angle and isn't afraid to challenge hitters. He changes planes well and uses both sides of the plate. Hanson tends to rely too much on one pitch, particularly his fastball, when his other offerings aren't working. He also tends to pitch up in the strike zone, leaving him vulnerable to home runs. He gave up 10 longballs in just 60 innings in high Class A. A potential middle-of-the-rotation starter, Hanson has moved quickly while making adjustments against experienced competition. He will likely return to Myrtle Beach, but could earn a midseason promotion.
Hanson could prove to be the crown jewel of the seven draft-and-follow picks the Braves signed last May. After he went in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the West Coast Collegiate League that summer and led California juco pitchers with 138 strikeouts in 101 innings. Signed away from an Arizona State commitment for $325,000, Hanson presents an imposing physical presence on the mound thanks to his 6- foot-6 frame. He throws the ball on a tough downhill plane to the plate. He's not overpowering but commands his 89-92 mph fastball with precision, leading to an impressive 56-9 KBB ratio in his pro debut. His secondary pitches show promise, particularly after he worked extensively with Rookie-level Danville pitching coach Doug Henry on tightening the spin of his curveball and the depth of his changeup. As he continues to develop those pitches, Hanson will need to mix his three offerings instead of focusing on his fastball, as he did in his pro debut. Hanson will be part of a strong but young Rome rotation in 2007.
Minor League Top Prospects
The Braves surged into contention after promoting Hanson as he solidified the final spot in Atlanta's rotation with the poise of a veteran. With the Braves mired in a four-game losing streak in late June, he took the mound while battling the flu and shut out the Red Sox for six innings--despite throwing up after the third. Hanson overwhelms hitters with three above-average pitches: a 91-96 mph fastball that features good late trail, an 81-86 mph slider with two-plane break and a 73-78 mph curveball. His slider is his out pitch. He challenges hitters and generally keeps the ball down. Hanson also throws an 80-84 mph changeup that still needs work. He has problems getting consistent fade with the pitch and often leaves it up in the zone. He pitched past the sixth inning in just three of his 11 starts because his pitch count would get too high from striking out so many batters.
Mississippi had the best second-half record in the Southern League, thanks in part to the emergence of Hanson. After dominating the high Class A Carolina League, he went 3-3, 5.27 in his first eight starts with Mississippi. Then he tossed a 14-strikeout no-hitter against Birmingham on June 25, the start of a 5-1, 1.41 surge that included 79 whiffs in 57 innings. Hanson works off a lively 90-94 mph fastball. He has a good 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup that rates as a plus pitch at times. At midseason he started mixing in a plus slider, which he broke out for the first time in the no-hitter. Hanson has clean arm action with a lag in his release point behind his right ear, which creates some deception in his delivery and makes hitters pick up the ball late. Though he can throw his entire repertoire for strikes, he can cut down on his walks by not trying to be too fine with his pitches.
Hanson went just 2-6 in 14 starts at Rome, but his record fails to tell the true story. He used solid command of four pitches along with a willingness to throw inside to post a 2.59 ERA and limit hitters to a .194 average. Six-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Hanson has impressive mound presence and delivers the ball on an intimidating downhill plane. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he commands it well. Add in the tight spin on his curveball and improving depth on his changeup, and he's on the fast track in the Braves system. "He has good arm strength and I really like his breaking ball," Asheville pitching coach Bryan Harvey said. "He has a real good idea out there on the mound."
Hanson was one of the most imposing pitches in the league this season. Hanson isn't as overpowering as his 6-foot-6 frame might indicate, but he pounds the strike zone with three quality pitches on a good downhill plane. Drawing comparisons to former Braves righthander Adam Wainwright, Hanson pitches with his 89-93 mph fastball to all quadrants of the strike zone. He also features a hard-breaking 12-to-6 curveball and an improved changeup that has good depth and fade to both sides of the plate. "There's a lot to like, but he's still raw in pitch selection and understanding situations," another AL scout said. "There are some mechanical flaws in his delivery--a lot of moving parts and he'll rush his lower half at times--but nothing that's not correctable. He's athletic for a big man and there's a lot of upside."
One of the top draft-and-follow prospects from 2005, Hanson signed for $325,000 after leading California juco pitchers in strikeouts this spring. Hanson dominated amateur competition with above-average fastball command, and he did the same in his pro debut, as evidenced by his 56-9 K-BB ratio. Despite standing 6-foot-6, Hanson doesn't have exceptional velocity. Instead he throws a lively fastball at 90-91 mph and uses his size to locate it down in the strike zone. Vulnerable when he can't get his secondary pitches over, he spent a lot of time working with Danville pitching coach Doug Herny on tightening up his curveball and changeup. Hanson applies instruction well and showed improvement throughout the summer. "He drives the ball to the plate and by the time he strides downhill, it feels like he's on top of the hitter," Danville manager Paul Runge said. "He's an intimidating force on the mound."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Pitching Prospect in the International League in 2009
- Rated Best Slider in the Atlanta Braves in 2009
- Rated Best Pitching Prospect in the Carolina League in 2008
- Rated Best Pitching Prospect in the South Atlantic League in 2007