Former top Sox pitching prospect Alec Hansen retires originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Alec Hansen was once part of Chicago White Sox fans' projected rotation of the future.
Less than a half decade after leading the minor leagues in strikeouts, though, Hansen is retiring.
Hansen was the White Sox' second-round pick in the 2016 draft, and a year later, he struck out a whopping 191 opposing hitters, more Ks than any minor league pitcher that season, including teammate Michael Kopech, who wasn't far behind with 172 punch outs.
Hansen pitched at three different levels during that successful 2017 campaign, at Low A, High A and Double-A, finishing with a 2.81 ERA and high hopes that he'd reach the South Side in short order.
But things slid backward in dramatic fashion after that, Hansen sidelined for months with a forearm injury in the first half of the 2018 season. He lost command of the strike zone upon his return, getting knocked around for a 6.31 ERA that year, during which he was demoted from Double-A Birmingham to Class A Winston-Salem.
The White Sox moved him to the bullpen in 2019, and he found success pitching in relief for Winston-Salem. But he struggled again after a promotion to Birmingham and finished with a 5.45 ERA there.
Like all minor leaguers, Hansen did not pitch in 2020. Last year, he made 22 relief appearances for Birmingham and was shelled to the tune of a 6.04 ERA.
At one point, following that spectacular 2017 season, Hansen was ranked as one of the White Sox' top prospects and figured prominently in their long-term plans. Those plans have since come to fruition after a lengthy rebuilding process, but Hansen was not able to be part of them, an example — and perhaps the chief example among one-time White Sox hopefuls — of Rick Hahn's longtime assertion that not all prospects pan out.
The White Sox have been fortunate that so many of those highly rated prospects did reach the major leagues and formed the team's current core — including young starting pitchers Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Kopech — which seemingly has the South Siders set up for a lengthy contention window and long-term success.
Hansen's role in that success, however, will be relegated to "what if?" status.