Prospect Hansen eyeing bigs after strong '17

Prospect Hansen eyeing bigs after strong '17

CHICAGO -- There was a time during the 2015 season when Alec Hansen was considered a potential top pick overall in the '16 Draft.

After a rough junior season at Oklahoma in 2016, with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 51 2/3 innings, the right-hander "slipped" to the White Sox in the second round of the 2016 Draft. But it didn't take long for Hansen to not only put up dominant numbers at the Minor League levels, but also to start thinking about big league possibilities.

"I definitely feel like I'll be able to start consistently in the Major Leagues toward the end of next year," Hansen said during a conference call. "This first full year, it was great that it taught me about my arm and how my arm is going to feel in between every start and how my body is going to feel throughout the season. I can go into this offseason and work out and get my body the way I want it to going into Spring Training, and be able to maintain that throughout the season next year.

"I'll have a lot more confidence and experience that's going to help me. By the end of next year, that experience and confidence in my body will be where it needs to be to be in the Major Leagues for good."

Hansen's 2017 body of work certainly gives him reason for that big league optimism, building off of a strong debut in '16. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old moved from the AZL White Sox to Rookie-level Great Falls to Class A Kannapolis in '16. He then jumped from Kannapolis to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham this season.

Over two starts for the Barons, Hansen pitched 10 1/3 innings while striking out 17, walking three and allowing five earned runs. Those 17 K's gave him 191 for the season, tops among Minor League hurlers.

"That's something I'll remember for the rest of my life -- that I led the Minor Leagues in strikeouts this year, which is pretty cool," said Hansen, who has a 2.39 ERA over 38 career starts. "It was in A-ball where guys swing a lot and are pretty aggressive at the plate.

"But it was nice to see I went up to Double-A and still had quite a few strikeouts. That was kind of reassuring that it wasn't just a thing because I was in the lower levels."

Hansen's confidence and pitching knowledge clearly have grown as part of the White Sox, whose confidence in taking a chance on him has been rewarded with an apparent front-line starter as the team's No. 6 prospect per MLBPipeline.com.

"It's all been a lot of fun and that's been what allowed me to succeed," Hansen said. "As far as pitching-wise, my fastball command has been pretty good, but that could get a little bit better.

"Besides that, the biggest thing is being able to command my breaking balls -- my slider, my curveball -- for a strike better. Then refining my changeup a little bit, getting it to slow down a little bit. It's probably like six mph difference from my fastball. If I could get it to eight, that'd be really good. But other than the breaking ball and the changeup, that's really it."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.