After a lackluster professional debut in 2015, Mitchell Hansen repolished his prospect star with a solid repeat engagement with rookie-level Ogden last season. Hansen both cut down his strikeouts while also tapping into his power potential. While the results were promising, Hansen has yet to reach full-season ball, and 2017 could bring more growing pains outside of the friendly offensive environment of the Pioneer League.
The Dodgers surprised onlookers when they selected Hansen in the second round of the 2015 draft and signed him away from a Stanford scholarship. Despite tantalizing tools, Hansen struggled mightily in the Arizona Rookie League, with slight improvement coming in the second half. Hansen’s career got back on track with a loud offensive performance in the Pioneer League, where he showed already some refinement to his raw tools.
Hansen remains one of the higher-ceiling talents in the organization. He’s already added some muscle to his 6’4 frame and still has room to fill out. He was an above average runner in high school, and Hansen stole 11 bases with Ogden, but he’s likely to settle in at around average at physical maturity.
While I still consider him a candidate to play center field down the road, Hansen has spent most of his time in the Dodgers’ organization in an outfield corner. He has a strong right field arm that would be easy plus in left, and the long strider should cover sufficient ground in either corner. If Hansen continues to move through the organization with Cody Thomas and DJ Peters, I would expect him to continue to play left field.
Should he remain in a corner, Hansen’s offense will need to continue to progress as it did in 2016. Hansen has the potential to hit for both average and power, and made gains in both skills this year. Hansen employs a wider set-up at the plate now than he showed in high school video, but still shows a quick, level swing. His upper body is a little stiff, leaving him prone to getting in front of off-speed pitches, and though he cut back his strikeout rate to 21%, his size and adjustment ability leave him prone to strikeouts. Alternatively, Hansen handled left handed pitching with aplomb, and his lack of a platoon split speaks well to his future as an everyday player.
Hansen’s level swing plane is more geared for contact now, but adjustments to having him match plane with pitches could lead to more power down the road. He’s got the physical strength and bat speed for 15-20 home runs annually right now. I’d still like to see him work his lower half into his swing more, while also increasing the plane on his swing before suggesting his power can be above average for a corner outfielder.
Though Hansen has now spent two seasons with the Dodgers without reaching Low-A, I respect the decision to leave Hansen in the Pioneer League for the full year in 2016 to boost his confidence. Hansen was an older high school signee and will turn 21 during the 2017 season, which tempers his ceiling some despite his tools.
Optimistically, Hansen has the ceiling of an everyday corner outfielder capable of providing above average offensive and defensive production, but I don’t quite see a star player yet. Hansen is at least three years away still, and must clear a big hurdle in the Midwest League. I don’t think the Dodgers are quite ready to abandon their cautious approach with Hansen yet either, especially with the depth of outfielders in the system.
It’s this depth that could make Hansen an appealing trade candidate. His size, high school pedigree, and tools could make him an alluring asset despite his distance from the major leagues. Likewise, the Dodgers have enough outfield talent in the system closer to helping the big league club that they could stand to assume the risk of parting with Hansen. His name hasn’t been mentioned prominently this off-season despite the amount of trade rumors the Dodgers have been involved in, but it would not surprise me if Hansen was an accompanying piece to a larger deal before the 2017 season begins.
Failing that, Hansen will join at least Cody Thomas if not DJ Peters in the Midwest League outfield in what will be one of the minors’ most physically imposing trios. Should Hansen continue to make gains in power while hitting for average, his ranking could climb to a level more commensurate with his five tools.