SAN FRANCISCO - One of the worst parts of all the injuries the past two seasons was that very few backups and young players stepped up to take advantage of the increased playing time. Alen Hanson was an exception.
Hanson was called up in late April when Joe Panik sprained his thumb on a tag play, and by the time Panik returned, it was fair to wonder who the best option at second base was. At the very least, Hanson has put himself squarely in the conversation moving forward and made himself a nice bench option for 2019. Here's a look at his first year with the Giants …
What Went Right:
Hanson hit .283 in the first half with 13 doubles, two triples, six homers and 26 RBI. He ended up setting career highs in games played (110), homers (eight), RBI (39), doubles (17) and triples (five). Overall, he had a .699 OPS, and he was at .781 from the left side, with a .484 slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers.
Hanson was a revelation off the bench. He hit .333 when he did not start a game and was 11-for-29 as a pinch-hitter with two homers, two doubles and eight RBI. He led the Giants in hits and homers as a pinch-hitter. That .379 average as a pinch-hitter was good for fourth in the league. Hanson was one of the few Giants who excelled in tight spots, batting .302 with runners in scoring position.
What Went Wrong:
Like Gorkys Hernandez, another first-half breakout, Hanson struggled in the second half. He hit .215 after the break with a .558 OPS, and it became clear that he's best in a platoon situation. Against left-handed pitchers, Hanson had a .183/.200/.239 slash line.
Hanson wasn't drawing walks in the first half, but it was easier to swallow when he was hitting liners in the gaps. In the second half, Hanson had just one walk. From July 20 to September 9, he went to the plate 108 times without drawing a walk.
Defensively, Hanson played five different positions, but the advanced metrics didn't like him at any of them, and the coaching staff has concerns about his ability to handle second base - his main spot - on an everyday basis. He tended to make mental errors and hold the ball too long.
Hanson was signed as a minor league free agent last December and won't be arbitration eligible until 2020.
At times, Hanson was the Giants' most exciting player. They don't have anyone else who can do the things he can on the bases, whether that means cruising into third with standup triples or scoring from first on a wild pickoff throw.
His aggressive approach was perfect off the bench, and while he's not a defensive standout, he's versatile enough that Bruce Bochy could double-switch him into games in the middle innings and then move him around.
The Giants did find, though, that there are reasons why the 26-year-old has never secured a full-time job. His numbers dipped as a starter and the front office will not go into next season with Hanson slated to start at second base, or any other position.
He's a perfect bench option, fully capable of backing up Panik and Brandon Crawford and getting on the field every night as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. Expect him to be on the Opening Day roster, just not as a starter.