Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tommy Hanson's No Longer a Man Crush

If you pay attention to the minors, you get man crushes.  Casual fans really don't get it.  They know the guys who are on the major league roster, especially the everyday players, but they don't know much about the guy in A-ball who looks like he might have impact potential.  Man crushes might be big prospects.  They were signed for big money out of Latin America or received a significant signing bonus after being drafted high.  But the best man crushes are the guys who were selected deep in the draft or maybe they were signed when a bigger international guy got all the money.

Tommy Hanson was selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft.  He was signed using a method that's not even allowed anymore.  Atlanta made Hanson a draft-and-follow.  Before the change in rules that limited the signing period, teams could draft a player, watch him play for most of the next season, and try to sign him ahead of the upcoming draft.  After his 2005 pick, Hanson went to Riverside Community College in 2006 before signing May 22nd.  The Braves saw something they couldn't afford to lose.

Hanson was a fast riser through the Braves system.  He played for a pair of A-ball teams in 2007 and conquered AA the following year.  By the time 2009 started, he was the fourth best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.  Hanson was a special arm that had questionable mechanics, but still expected to be a guy who would develop into a front-of-the-staff guy, even if he wasn't an ace.

The Braves had some decent arms in 2009.  Javier Vazquez would have a monster season.  Jair Jurrjens had his last good full-season.  Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami were around...unfortunately.  With Tim Hudson out, Jo-Jo Reyes won the fifth starter job.  I guess there was no way that would have ever worked.

As May led into June, the Braves were awaiting the return of the 82 year-old Tom Glavine.  He had been injured for the season, a season after returning to Atlanta with Chuck James-like numbers.  Meanwhile, they had Hanson and his 1.49 ERA in 66.1 ING at Gwinnett.  Surprising future bloggers like me everywhere, they released Glavine, expediting his retirement, and called up Hanson.

For two-and-a-half seasons, Hanson was a guy who straddled the line between being really good and possibly breaking out.  He stayed healthy in 2010 and posted a 4.2 WAR.  That was supposed to be a start.  Injuries limited him in 2011, but he K'd 142 in 130 innings.

However, last year happened.  And the Braves, seeing the writing on the wall and unwilling to watch another arm go down the route of Jurrjens, traded Hanson rather than get nothing for him.  The fact they got Jordan Walden for Hanson not only looks like a rip-off for the Angels, but if the Braves don't make that trade, it's difficult to see them as the front-runner they are.

Hanson, on the other hand, has gotten worse.  Injuries have limited him to just 67.2 ING, innings that impressed absolutely nobody, and the Angels demoted him yesterday rather than continue to run him out every fifth day.

Wow.

How did Hanson and Jurrjens follow the same path?  Velocity is key.  Hanson averaged 92-93 mph between 2009-10.  It fell to 91 mph in 2011, but it has been under 90 mph since.  His velocity is down across the board, too.  All of his pitches lost a little something.  It's difficult to maintain performance while losing velocity and he's only 26!

Like Kelly Johnson, I have had to grips with the failure of my man crush, Hanson.  He will never be the guy I thought he was capable of.  Unfortunately, he may not even be an option anymore to even start games in the major leagues.  From Mark Bowman, Hanson has a 5.12 ERA in 49 starts since the 2011 All-Star Break.  You just can't polish this turd.

Maybe Hanson can find it.  Like I said, he's still only 26.  However, chances are...Hanson will become very familiar with AAA teams across the country.

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