From Player of Year to the Invisible Man

After a breakout year in 2005 to include being named the St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year, this former Top Prospect fails to crack Scout.com's 2007 Top 40 Prospect list, among others...

Travis Hanson had a breakout season in 2005. Setting career high numbers in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, home runs, walks, RBI and hits, as the 25-year-old third baseman moved up to Triple-A for the first time, Hanson was added to the Cardinals coveted 40 man roster and named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year,

Selected to play in the Arizona Fall League after the 2005 season ended, Hanson hit .261/.306/.359 in 23 games for the Surprise Scorpions. He was subsequently selected to play for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament, where he hit .333/.385/.417 and drove in three runs in 12 at-bats for the United States, playing in four of the five games.

The Cardinals ninth-round pick in 2002, Hanson was an All-Star in three of his first four seasons, including his selection as a member of the Texas League squad in 2005. There wasn't a Redbird flying higher than Hanson at the time, but 2005 may have turned out be the pinnacle season of his professional baseball career.

Hanson first appeared to be falling off the fast track to the majors after his play in the Arizona Fall League. There were reports that everyone was disappointed with the AFL season Hanson had put together in Arizona, with one scout going so far as to suggest that Hanson may have already peaked.

"He just doesn't seem to be progressing. He's smart, and he'll make an adjustment to do one thing better, but the pure talent might not be there," an AL scout said, "My team was, for a time, actively pursuing him, but we've backed off over the last year."

After banging out 52 extra-base hits and driving in 97 runs in '05, Hanson drove in just 38 in '06 with only 27 extra-base hits in 475 at-bats and by the end of the season, there wasn't anybody pursuing the services of the once highly touted young third baseman.

Hanson only managed to stay at Triple-A for 67 games last season, hitting just .220 before he was sent back down to Double-A Springfield, where he had enjoyed the best season of his career the previous year.

The guy who looks like Stan Musial in the Springfield Cardinals record book, as the All Time leader in games played (137), at bats (546), hits (155), RBI (97), walks (54), total bases (250), ranking second in runs scored (82), home runs (20), doubles (29) and triples (3), looked nothing like "The Man" when he returned to Hammons Field, hitting just .226 over 65 games upon his return.

I watched Hanson closely last year playing at Spring Training and again after he was sent down to Springfield and to me he looked off balance a lot of time, not only at the plate but in the field as well.

He strikes out a lot, of course that has always been a problem for him and in spite of being known for being one of the best defensive players in the organization, Hanson to me looked very awkward in the field last season. He can make a great Scott Rolen defensive play one moment, only to mishandle a routine ball hit to him on the next ball play.

Ranked by the Birdhouse in 2005 Top 40 countdown as the Cardinals #9 Prospect and #7 by Baseball America's 2006 prospect rankings, Hanson was considered a practically can't miss prospect.

As our Scout.com writers gathered around the table recently to prepare the Cardinals Top 15 prospect list for the new 2007 Scout Prospect Guide and the Top 40 Prospect list for the annual Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospect countdown, Travis Hanson had gone from a can't miss highly ranked prospect to completely disappeared from our rankings.

It wasn't his first disappearing act, in a poll conducted by our message board community, Hanson failed to crack the fan's Top 40 Prospect list, with one moderator going so far as to say that he couldn't even rank Hanson as a Top 50 prospect.

For now Travis Hanson remains on the Cardinals' 40 man roster, but if he wants to remain there, he'll have to turn it around this season, and have a "Comeback Player of the Year" type of season, as time is running out for one of our favorite players in the system.

 


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