I feel like I am the only person outside of his family to believe in Jacob Hannemann. Claimed from the Cubs on September 4th, many viewed him as little more than a pinch-runner or defensive replacement down the stretch. Frankly, I can't fault people for feeling that way - despite being a gifted athlete, Hannemann is an older prospect at 26 years old (although as a BYU grad, he lost two years of development while on a mission trip), and endured a rough year at the plate in 2017. After posting a woeful 70 wRC+ with a K-rate north of 30% in Double-A, the Cubs surprisingly promoted him to Iowa.
Bumping up a struggling former top prospect a level to challenge him isn't unheard of. We saw the Mariners do this with D.J. Peterson a couple years ago, but ultimately he didn't produce. Hannemann, though, took this opportunity and ran with it. While the 88 wRC+ he put up in Iowa isn't great, either, he cut his strikeouts all the way down to 21.4% - in over twice as many plate appearances he had in Double-A. He was a great baserunner (23-for-26 in stolen bases in Iowa), added a bit of power, he hit more line drives, and while the pop-up issue that has plagued him his entire minor league career was still present, he again cut down on them significantly in Triple-A.
Hannemann was given very sparse opportunities to play in September, much to my chagrin. With Guillermo Heredia majorly scuffling - partly because he was playing with A DISLOCATED SHOULDER WHAT THE HECK - and the team mostly out of contention, I had hoped to see him get a few more starts. Alas, he only started four games, two of which were the last two games of the season. His small sample slash line of .150/.150/.300 was pretty woeful, and there were a couple of instances where he looked overmatched, such as this brutal error in Oakland:
Yeeeeeesh. This one play isn't very indicative of Hannemann's defensive abilities - he has shown his entire professional career that he can play a true center field. But it's up there as one of the ugliest plays of the season from my memory, and directly led to a run - the next batter hit a sacrifice fly.
It wasn't all bad, though. On September 30th, Hannemann hit his first big league home run, jumping all over a Ricky Nolasco fastball and sending it over the right-field wall.
Wow! Granted, that was an absolutely terrible pitch from Nolasco, but still, who would have guessed that Jacob Hannemann would have his first Major League dinger by the end of the year? This prompted a backhanded compliment from our own John Trupin:
That's one of the worst swings I've ever seen result in a homer.— John Trupin (@JohnTrupin) October 1, 2017
After poring over the video dozens of times, I have to say that I agree. Look at the point of contact:
Hannemann is generating almost no power from his lower half here. His hips and arms seem out of sync, with his hips flying open before the bat finishes traveling through the zone. While he did do a good job of keeping his hands in, this kind of swing looks more like a defensive, try-to-foul-it-off sort of deal.
This swing put a baseball here:
Statcast tracked this home run at 101 miles per hour off the bat, with a distance of 404 feet. 404 feet! From a swing with almost no lower body torque behind it! Now *that's* intriguing. He put a similarly ugly swing on a ball the next day, too, and while it was an out, it still went much farther than it had any right to:
Once again: lower body? What's that? Hannemann also looks like he's lunging at this pitch a bit, dropping his shoulder and casting his arms out too far for my liking. He did do a good job of taking a pitch on the outer half the other way, though, and if that swing was just a little bit more level, it may have had a chance of falling in for a hit.
Jacob Hannemann needs a lot of work at the plate. The aforementioned pop-up problem he's had in the minors would likely wreak havoc on both his results and batted ball profile in the Majors, and guys with swings as raw-looking as his become exposed very quickly. The power he can somehow put behind it is really interesting, though, and I'm really hoping that he gets an invite to the hitting summit the Mariners will be having this offseason. If he can figure out how to tap into his lower body more and level out that swing, it's easy to imagine him spraying line drives all over the field. Combine that with his center field abilities and strong baserunning, and we just might have a useful player in there somewhere. Here's hoping he can figure that out.