Tommy Hanson Will Help Atlanta in 2009

It wasn’t long ago that the Atlanta Braves organization had the best pitching in baseball, with a staff that included John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux, among other talent hurlers. The starting rotation, to a degree, has fallen into disarray in recent seasons.

But help is on the way.

Right-hander Tommy Hanson was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft out of Riverside Community College. He signed as a draft-and-follow (a now extinct process) prior to the 2006 season and made his pro debut that same year in a Rookie Ball league. He then spent 2007 split between two A-ball affiliates.

Hanson entered 2008 in the rotation for the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He allowed just 15 hits in 40 innings, over seven starts. He walked 11 batters (2.48 BB/9) and fanned 49 (11.03 K/9). Atlanta then promoted the talented hurler to face more challenging situations in Double-A. He allowed 70 hits in 98 innings. Hanson’s control wavered a bit and he posted rates of 3.77, with 10.47 strikeouts per nine innings. One obvious downside to his 2008 numbers was the fact that he was an extreme flyball pitcher and had just a 32 GB% during his first stop of the season and 41 GB% in Double-A.

Although he was not quite as dominating in Double-A overall, Hanson showed he was on the cusp of helping the big league club. Sensing that, the organization sent Hanson to get some extra work in the Arizona Fall League – which pits some of the best prospects in baseball against one another for more than a month. Players also receive extra instruction and drills to help further develop their skills. Hanson decided to make his fellow prospects look foolish.

In seven starts, he allowed 10 hits in 28.2 innings. Hanson struck out 49 batters and allowed just seven free passes. He was also lit up for just one home run. Right-handed batters hit .090 against him, while lefties managed just a .143 average. With runners in scoring position, Hanson held batters to a .067 average and struck out 11 of the 18 batters he faced.

The Atlanta Braves’ 2009 starting rotation currently features only two pitchers guaranteed of roles: Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo. As a result, Hanson has a legitimate shot at breaking camp with the club in April, although a little more development time in Triple-A certainly would not hurt. Either way, as long as he stays healthy, Hanson should make his Major League debut in 2009.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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