Alec Hansen has the stuff to be the next big pitching prospect in the White Sox system. Last week, he backed that up once again with the Great Falls Voyagers.
The No. 8 White Sox prospect secured Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week honors for the second time in his young career after striking out 17 and allowing just one hit over two scoreless starts (11 innings). Chicago's second-round pick in 2016 also won the award for the week of Aug. 1-7.
Hansen got things started on the right foot last Tuesday with five hitless innings at Ogden. The 21-year-old right-hander struck out four and walked three but admitted that his fastball command, slider and changeup could each have been better, despite the results.
"After an outing to see that, it just gives you confidence," he told MiLB.com late Tuesday night. "Obviously there's things you want to get better on, but it makes you feel good about yourself that you went out there, and even if I wasn't 100 percent happy with how I did, there are still positives that came from it."
Hansen backed up the gem Sunday with a career-high 13 strikeouts over six one-hit innings at Helena, again walking three batters and not factoring into the decision. The outing marked the third time in his last four starts that the 6-foot-7 hurler hit double-digit K's and pushed his total to a Pioneer League-best 59 in 36 2/3 innings since joining Great Falls from the complex-level Arizona League on July 13. Though he doesn't have enough innings to have his 1.23 ERA qualify for the Pioneer lead, his 14.5 K/9 with the Voyagers is easily highest among pitchers on the circuit with at least 30 innings this season, trumping second-place J.D. Hammer of Grand Junction (11.5).
The jump in K's between Hansen's two outings last week didn't come as an accident, according to Great Falls pitching coach Matt Zaleski.
"In between his last start and this one, it was pretty much a bullpen of ... just fastball command," Zaleski told MiLB.com on Sunday. "He's a hard worker and it definitely shows, it pays off."
His fastball, which usually sits in the mid-90's, has received a 70 grade from MLB.com on the 20-80 scouting scale, and when combined with above-average offerings in his slider and curveball as well as a fourth pitch in the change, that's an exciting repertoire capable of dominating at the lower levels of the Minors.
Where the Colorado native has struggled has been with his control. Though he did fan a team-best 75, Hansen also walked 39 batters in 51 2/3 innings (6.8 BB/9) in his final season with the Sooners. That caused his stock to drop in June -- MLB.com had him pegged as the No. 62 prospect in the Draft -- until the White Sox picked him up with the 49th overall selection and inked him to a $1,284,500 signing bonus, the exact slot value for the pick. His control has been decidedly better in the Pioneer League with a 2.9 BB/9 through his first seven starts, but with three free passes in each of his last three outings, those worries haven't gone away in the pros either.
But for all the pre-Draft worries about whether the right-hander could harness his impressive stuff, those around Hansen certainly like the foundation he's establishing with Great Falls.
"As long as he's with us, I'm just going to continue to work with him and try and develop him more," Zaleski said over the weekend. "I know there's not much of the season left, so I'm not really sure what's going to happen. If he does [get promoted], obviously I hope he continue to work as hard as he did down here.
"He's gotten better with every start with his fastball command and his off-speed stuff. I'm very fortunate to see a talent like this and other pitchers on our staff grow."
Here is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for Aug. 15-21:
International -- Adam Plutko, Columbus (CLE): 2-0, 1.54 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 2/3 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HBP, 3 BB, 13 K
Pacific Coast -- Trevor Oaks, Oklahoma City (LAD): 1-0, 1.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 CG, 9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 11 K
Eastern -- Wilmer Font, New Hampshire (TOR): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 13 K
Southern -- Stephen Gonsalves, Chattanooga (MIN): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 8 K
Texas -- Seth Simmons, San Antonio (SD): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 9 K
California -- Zack Littell, Bakersfield (SEA): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 7 K
Carolina -- Daniel McGrath, Salem (BOS): 1-0, 1.13 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HBP, 2 BB, 5 K
Florida State -- Nestor Cortes, Tampa (NYY): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 9 K
Midwest -- Conor Harber, Wisconsin (MIL): 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 0 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 8 K
South Atlantic -- A.J. Puckett, Lexington (KC): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 4 K
New York-Penn -- Steven Farinaro, State College (STL): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 8 K
Northwest -- Denis Diaz, Vancouver (TOR): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 BB, 3 K
Appalachian -- Jorge Alcala, Greeneville (HOU): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 7 K
Pioneer -- Alec Hansen, Great Falls (CWS): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 6 BB, 17 K
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.