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Righty White Sox prospect Hansen 'special'

MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- One word described the impression made by Alec Hansen during his debut in the White Sox organization last season.

"Special. He's special," said Matt Zaleski, who was Hansen's pitching coach at Great Falls of the Rookie level Pioneer League during the 2016 campaign. "His stuff is pretty much off the charts."

CHICAGO -- One word described the impression made by Alec Hansen during his debut in the White Sox organization last season.

"Special. He's special," said Matt Zaleski, who was Hansen's pitching coach at Great Falls of the Rookie level Pioneer League during the 2016 campaign. "His stuff is pretty much off the charts."

By the letter of the law, Zaleski's description surpassed one word. But the general idea quickly becomes clear: the team's second-round pick in the 2016 Draft out of Oklahoma pretty much overwhelmed the competition.

Hansen, Chicago's No. 14 prospect as ranked by MLBPipeline.com, made three appearances for the Arizona Rookie League team, with the right-hander yielding one hit over seven innings and striking out 11. He raised the bar at Great Falls with 12 hits and 12 walks allowed over 36 2/3 innings to go with 59 strikeouts.

Against Idaho Falls on Aug. 5, Hansen struck out 11 while giving up one hit in six innings. Against Ogden on Aug. 16, Hansen threw five hitless innings. And on Aug. 21, Helena managed one hit in six innings as Hansen knocked down 13.

After going through '16 struggles to the tune of a 5.40 ERA with the Sooners, Hansen looked more like the first overall pick that he was projected to be immediately following the 2015 Draft.

"It was great. It was definitely a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be," a confident Hansen told MLB.com at the end of instructional league action. "I know it's not always that fun. But that was my biggest surprise.

"Definitely I feel like I put a little more pressure on myself than I needed to [at Oklahoma]. All the expectations just kind of got to me when I had struggled a little bit and made it worse than it really could have been. But it's fun learning from people who have been there and people who have a lot of experience and know what they are talking about."

This Hansen development concluded with a 2.45 ERA over two starts at Class A Kannapolis. Actually, it ended back in Arizona, with Hansen focusing primarily on his changeup during the instructional league. With a fastball getting up in the 98-mph range and a solid breaking ball already in place, the changeup remains a necessity for Hansen to succeed at the highest level.

"We'd like it a couple of miles slower," said Zaleski, who also watched him in instructional league play. "But the location of it and all that kind of stuff was pretty dang good."

"You really have to be able to throw strikes and not just throw the ball over the plate, but be able to locate it a little bit," Hansen said. "Also have a secondary pitch. That was the biggest thing for me. [Opposing hitters] are good at finding the pitch they want to hit and putting a good swing on it."

Fans already have begun thinking about how quickly the 6-foot-7 Hansen can reach the Majors. They also are dreaming of a future rotation involving some combination of Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer and Hansen -- the pot of gold at the end of the rebuilding rainbow.

But the 22-year-old presently focuses on his upcoming full season of professional baseball, when he's not testing out a set of new golf clubs he received for his birthday in October. Hansen proved to be a good teammate who carries himself with special authority on the mound.

He's infinitely coachable, making it easier for White Sox player development to take the baton from scouting.

"Our coaches and amateur scouts did a hell of a job on this one. It showed a nice symbiotic relationship between amateur scouting and player development," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "He's had a great year and deserves a world of credit for being open to the [changeup]."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox