Tommy Hanson is why scouts will always have value

Atlanta Braves former top prospect and oft-injured starter Tommy Hanson was traded over the weekend to the LA Angels for relief flame thrower Jordan Walden. It is scary to think that three years ago Hanson was one of the most valued assets in the game with scouts raving about his ability and three above average pitches. However things do change, and there are many out there who are right in saying “I told you so” when it comes to Hanson.

When evaluating a player, particularly pitchers, scouts and front offices use what is called bio-mechanic information. Essentially what this process does is try to assess a players mechanics and “baseball motions” to see if there are any alarming trends occurring that could lead to regression or even injury. Sometimes you can spot this with your eyes by noticing a player has a seemingly violent delivery, or if something seems off but you can’t quite put a finger on it.

When you watch Tommy Hanson deliver the baseball, he drives almost entirely off of his shoulder and snaps his elbow to get his finishing velocity and movement. Notice that he doesn’t use his legs to generate the torque and leaves almost all the work on his arm. Combine that with almost no hip rotation. The result is a “short arming” effect that produces some terrific results if you have a strong arm, like Hanson does. However what inevitably happens, is the pitcher loses that strength, as all pitchers do over time. Hanson’s regression and health issues just sped up the process and now he is suffering for it. He has been losing 1-2 MPH per season since he made his debut and flashed the electric stuff that made him a former top prospect. Even with a diminished fastball he could likely make the adjustments. The fact is that he’s at a tipping point right now and if he loses anymore on the fastball he won’t be able to overcome it with his lack of command.

The interesting part of this trade is that Jordan Walden has some interesting mechanics as well. Even though they are different, they’re actually not the type of different that I think will impede his health moving forward. Walden has a ton of movement and instability in his delivery that accounts for his command issues. Hanson was a ticking time bomb who will likely never have a few healthy seasons in his career. These observations are the types of decisions that scouts have to make when forwarding their recommendations to the front office for draft day and can make or break an organizations future. Nobody can predict health, but as the game evolves we’re becoming more adept at recognizing trends and potential hazards down the road. With player investments in the hundreds of millions, there will always be room for a scouts job in baseball.

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