Hanna working to build strength

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Left-hander Chris Hanna was the Texas Rangers' 11th round selection in last month's MLB Draft, and he has started his pro career by tossing three scoreless innings over two games for the rookie-level AZL Rangers. Lone Star Dugout features the 18-year-old prospect.

Left-hander Chris Hanna probably couldn't have imagined a better start to his professional career.

In his first two outings with the rookie-level AZL Rangers, the 18-year-old pitcher has tossed three scoreless innings, giving up one hit, walking zero, and striking out three.

Hanna pitched two shutout frames in the July 4 game against the AZL Angels, throwing his fastball between 87-91 mph while also mixing in a curveball and a changeup.

The South Carolina native is currently learning the routine of professional baseball, particularly at the rookie level. He picking up everything from learning bunt defenses to figuring out how to fill out a pitching chart.

And while Hanna knows he still has plenty of work to do, he's excited about his quick progression since signing with the Rangers.

"I'm learning, but I'm learning the hard way on most things," said Hanna of his first experiences in pro ball. "I've still got a lot of growing to do mentally and physically.

"Coming out of high school, I was only throwing 88 mph, and now I'm throwing 91. It's only my second week here, so I can't wait to see what else I've got."

Hanna attended Stratford High School in Goose Creek, S.C., also the alma mater of current Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound hurler, who was also the starting quarterback on his school's football team, turned the heads of scouts with an excellent senior season that included three no-hitters and a school-record 126 strikeouts in 68 innings.

In addition to his upper-80s fastball in high school, Hanna typically favored his changeup over the breaking ball to put away hitters, a rarity for most young hurlers.

"The changeup was my out pitch," Hanna said. "That was my favorite pitch to use."

Hanna had initially signed a letter of intent to play his collegiate ball at The Citadel, but grades led him to eventually sign with JUCO power Spartanburg Methodist College.

"I was committed to The Citadel on a full-ride my junior year, but due to my GPA and stuff like that, I couldn't make it," he said. "If I wasn't going to go in the draft, I was going to go to a junior college called Spartanburg Methodist."

As it turned out, Hanna was able to put college on hold to begin his career in professional baseball. But he wasn't quite sure that would happen––even on draft day.

"At first, I didn't even really plan on getting drafted," Hanna said. "It was something that just came up that day. My parents had told me to stay home, and it was a good idea to stay home."

Hanna says he was in contact with the Rangers a few times during the second day of the draft, and the two sides were eventually able to settle on an agreement in the 11th round.

"[The Rangers] called me and asked if I wanted to go in the 12th round," he said. "I was like, ‘I don't know about that.' Then they said, ‘We'll give you a call later on.' They tried to offer me slot money and everything.

"They called back and said, ‘How does 11th round for $100,000 sound?' I said, ‘It sounds good.' Then they just told me they'd come over to my house to sign the deal the next week."

The prospect is happy to be in professional baseball in part because of the help he will receive from the Rangers' developmental staff.

"I didn't even have a pitching coach [in high school]," Hanna said. "This has been the first time. I'm a very coachable guy, and if I get the right coaching, God knows what can happen."

While Hanna's secondary stuff has room for improvement, he is generally regarded as a strike-thrower with all three of his pitches. In the July 4 game against the Angels, he threw 17 strikes out of 25 pitches in the two innings.

Hanna says he has always been taught that location is key, and now he looks forward to getting stronger––and hopefully improving his velocity and durability––while working with the Rangers' developmental staff.

"I've been focusing on strength and accuracy," he said. "I was taught when I was younger that you build accuracy first, and then strength is going to come. Now I've actually got that opportunity to build that strength up."

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