Still relatively unknown by fans around baseball, Tommy Hanson has made waves in the Braves organization by jumping out of relative obscurity to shoot up the Braves top prospect list this year. Hanson is a 20-year old 6'6" right hander, who weighs in at 210 lbs. The big righty was a 22nd round pick in 2005 and signed as a draft-and-follow after going 11-3 with a 2.04 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings for Riverside Community College.
He started off hi pro career with Danville last season, going 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 56 strikeouts to only 9 walks in 51 2/3 innings. As a pitcher pitching in rookie-ball and only possessing a fastball that sits in the 88-92 mph range he was basically overlooked. That repertoire just isn't something that can carry a pitcher through higher levels normally. Well, he grew an inch since signing to get to 6'6" as well as a couple pounds and now that 88-92 turned into 92-95 with a knee-buckling curveball that he throws right around 75 mph. His mechanics are flawless with easy heat and a very fluid motion and now the real question is what will he be down the road?
Hanson this season has gone 2-4 with a record that is the least bit deserved for what he has done out on the mound. In eleven starts and one relief appearance for Rome, Hanson has a 2.35 ERA and 81 strikeouts, 22 walks, and 41 hits in 65 innings with a .179 BAA. The only real flaw with his stats is that he is only getting 0.93 groundouts for every fly ball out. He won't be able to dominate hitters as he moves up the ranks like he is doing right now, so becoming a pitcher who can induce grounders is crucial and could mean the difference between top and bottom of the rotation. As you start taking on more advanced hitters, those flyballs start turning into a lot more homeruns, something Chuck James experienced.
Hanson has great projection and great upside but is quite a ways away from breaking into the majors. He could end up anywhere from a number one to a number four starter and most of that depends on his ability to induce grounders. His changeup is a below average pitch right now and the ability to change speeds with that third pitch would go a long way towards making him a future top of the rotation guy. Right now he is one of my favorite prospects and in fact we just signed the organizations last ever draft-and-follow, Cole Rohrboughm, who not only has similar story, but was drafted in the same round last year as Hanson.