White Sox pitching prospect Alec Hansen wants to be best of best

 
 
Updated 1/25/2018 8:35 PM
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  • In advance of this weekend's SoxFest, pitching prospect Alec Hansen calls season ticket holders Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

      In advance of this weekend's SoxFest, pitching prospect Alec Hansen calls season ticket holders Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Scot Gregor | Staff Photographer

Alec Hansen was plopped down in the sale's office at Guaranteed Rate Field on Thursday afternoon, calling season-ticket holders and pumping the upcoming season on the South Side.

Considering he spent most of 2017 in Class A ball, and considering he's not on the Chicago White Sox's 40-man roster, it was an unusual sight.

But on second glance, it showed how highly Hansen is regarded and how key he is to lifting the Sox out a decade long run of failure.

"I think the off-season really benefited me and if I keep doing what I was doing last year and just take every game step by step, don't get too far ahead of myself, hopefully I can make it up here this year," Hansen said.

Opening last season at low A Kannapolis, the 23-year-old starting pitcher was 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA. Bumped up a level after 13 starts, Hansen was 4-5 with a 2.93 in 11 outings with high A Winston-Salem.

The White Sox's second-round draft pick in 2016 out of the University of Oklahoma, Hansen finished last season with AA Birmingham and had a 4.35 ERA in 2 starts.

The 6-foot-8 righty piled up 191 strikeouts (in 141⅓ innings) while shooting up through the system. That was the highest total for any minor league pitcher since 2011.

"That's definitely cool, having led the minor leagues in strikeouts," Hansen said. "But it is the minor leagues, so it's not the best of the best. Anyone who plays this game, I think, wants to be the best, so I didn't reflect on it too much. I just went into the off-season with the things I wanted to work on."

Hansen is coming out of the off-season and heading to the White Sox's major-league training camp next month ranked by Baseball America as the No. 57 top prospect in baseball.

Before SoxFest opens at the Hilton Chicago Friday, Hansen and several other young pitchers will throw in front of pitching coach Don Cooper at UIC.

"I think he's a big, strong guy who throws the ball in the mid-upper 90s, he has a curveball that breaks like a freaking firecracker, a slider that is hard and sharp and a changeup that is progressing," Cooper said of Hansen. "And he's a guy who has work to do like everybody."

Even though he has front end of the rotation potential, Hansen knows he is not coming out of spring training on the White Sox's 25-man roster.

"I don't know if I'm supposed to speak on behalf of this stuff, but I'm probably going to start in Double-A," Hansen said. "I don't think there's any way I would start with the big-league team. I think there's no way that'll happen. But just take every game in Double-A kind of like I did last year, game by game, and just build on each game and just move up the ladder. I mean I'm two doors down right now in Double-A, so I'm very close."

To get even closer to the majors this year, Hansen trained hard this off-season and shed 15 pounds. He weighs 220.

"Pitching is all about creating force and the faster you can create force, the harder you're going to throw," said Hansen, a Loveland, Col., native. "It's just physics. I think I've gotten in really good shape this off-season. Last year I was a little bit heavier and I think that kind of hampered me a little bit."

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