2009 Impact Rookie: Tommy Hanson

The Atlanta Braves’ starting pitching picture (say that three times fast) has changed dramatically since the 2008 season came to a disappointing end for the organization. Once a strength for the club, the starting rotation was inconsistent in 2008 despite the emergence of Jair Jurrjens and, to a certain degree, Jorge Campillo.

The club has worked hard to improve the rotation and it added veterans Javier Vazquez, Tom Glavine, and Derek Lowe over the winter. The Braves organization also brought in Japanese starter Kenshin Kawakami. If all the veterans are healthy on opening day, Jurrjens will likely take the fifth spot in the rotation with Campillo sliding to the bullpen.

Should a starting pitcher succumb to injury, though, Tommy Hanson will be waiting in the wings to prove himself. The right-hander broke out in a big way in 2008 by posting a 0.90 ERA in seven High-A starts. He allowed just 15 hits in 40 innings of work and posted rates of 2.48 BB/9 and 11.03 K/9. Hanson then was promoted to Double-A where he allowed 70 hits in 98 innings and posted rates of 3.77 BB/9 and 10.47 K/9.

After the season, Hanson appeared in the Arizona Fall League and dominated some of the best prospects in baseball by posting a 0.63 ERA in 28.2 innings. He allowed just 10 hits and struck out 49 batters. The 6’6” pitcher needs to induce a few more ground balls and left-handed batters have hit 30 points higher against Hanson than righties in his career. His repertoire includes four pitches that are average or better: an 88-93 mph fastball, slider, curveball and change-up.

With all the moves made by the big club in the 2008-09 off-season, Hanson is all but certain to begin the season in Triple-A but he seems to have surpassed both Jo-Jo Reyes, and Charlie Morton on the depth chart, despite the fact both hurlers have big league experience. Given enough innings, Hanson could have a significant impact on the Major League club in 2009. He’s certainly one of the best starting pitcher prospects in keeper leagues.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

8 Responses to “2009 Impact Rookie: Tommy Hanson”

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  1. Rahul says:

    Jurrjens will be the #3 starter, Kawakami 4th, and Glavine will most definitely be the 5th starter.

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  2. Marc Hulet says:

    What I meant was the veteran starters will secure four spots with Jurrjens taking the fifth. Not that he would be the fifth starter…

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  3. Rob says:

    Hanson has been throwing as hard as 99 mph with his fastball in exhibition games with the big club this spring.

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  4. Marc Hulet says:

    I know he can touch 95 mph, but I haven’t heard about 99… the spring guns aren’t exactly the most reliable… they tend to be high.

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  5. Patrick says:

    I agree with the assessment, to be honest. Hanson’s going to be a star soon in this league. He might have an impact this season, but if everyone stays healthy through August, there might not be a need, because Hudson could come back as well.

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  6. dogsbrekky says:

    Hanson is the real thing and he has rocked the mid 90s easily in the spring and has buckled many a good hitter with that slider and curve… he will arrive in 09′ in a big way… and yes he has hit 98-99 several times (dodgy guns or not, remember Zumaya hitting 103 ona dodgy gun)

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  7. Brian Recca says:

    Ya Tommy Hanson looks like a star in the making. Just wondering has Cole Rorborough come along at all? He looked to be a solid starter as well.

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  8. Very nice Braves information. I think Jurrjens will be a future hall-of-famer.
    I hope to be in Atlanta for a game this fall. I am visiting from Peru.

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