Oklahoma's Alec Hansen coming off his best start of young season

Alec Hansen is in the conversation to possibly be the top overall pick in this year's draft. AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte

Oklahoma right-hander Alec Hansen came into the season as a candidate for the top overall pick after spending his sophomore year pumping in an upper-90s fastball, a consistently plus slider and showing some feel for a changeup. He's a massive 6-foot-7, 235-pound leviathan whose arms are so long he can practically scratch his knees without bending at the waist. Pitchers built like that tend to take a while to harness their command and Hansen had been no different through his sophomore campaign. He went into last offseason needing to show scouts some signs that he could throw strikes where he wanted and that would probably be enough to have him in the conversation for the top overall pick.

Things began to go awry. Hansen sat out Oklahoma's fall season with forearm soreness. He dealt with a similarly described issue toward the end of his senior year of high school and has a screw in his elbow because of it. His opening start this season was a one-inning, four-walk disaster while his underwhelming second start -- three innings, three hits, three walks allowed -- had to be pushed back a day.

On Saturday, Hansen bounced back as well as one could have hoped, striking out 11 and walking just one over 6⅓ innings of work against a UCLA Bruins team loaded with mature, high-contact hitters. Hansen's fastball sat 94-98 mph early in the start, backed down into the low 90s late (understandable given that he had thrown only four innings prior to the start this season) and featured inconsistent movement. It's a plus-plus pitch, especially when it's moving, and Hansen located it down in the zone and to both sides of the plate with regularity. If I were to ignore Hansen's history of wildness and just view this start in a vacuum, I'd be comfortable projecting above average command.

I do think Hansen's delivery is about as simple as it gets for someone his size. He has some drop and drive to him -- which I'm fine with from a 6-7 pitcher as he still generates plenty of downward plane -- and cuts off his front side a bit but generally moves his significant mass directly toward the plate. Saturday's start gave me some confidence that Hansen could one day pitch with acceptable major league starter command with his current delivery and get there consistently simply through reps.