When He Was a Crawdad: Hanser Alberto
Back in 2012, Hanser Alberto, in many ways, was an afterthought in the infield. Three years later, he is a major leaguer.
At the time that Alberto came to Hickory in April 2012, the Crawdads had Luis Sardinas, who was to be the starting shortstop. However, because of injuries to Sardinas in 2011 – and the wish to keep a prized prospect healthy for a full season – Alberto was here to split time with Sardinas, as well as spell regular third baseman Drew Robinson.
By putting up a .337/.385/.463 slash line in 62 games, Alberto made the South Atlantic League All-Star Game roster and then received a promotion to Myrtle Beach after the first game of the second half. In the locker room the night of that bump-up, he was grinning ear-to-ear and hugging everyone he could find, myself included. I can only imagine what the scene was in Round Rock, Texas when he was told he was going to Arlington.
I thought fans might enjoy some of what was said about Alberto when he was a 19-year-old kid in Hickory back in 2012.
Here is a feature write-up I did on Alberto for the Hickory Daily Record in May 2012, followed by a couple of other quotes from the Crawdads field staff at the time
Prospects in minor league baseball sometimes are hidden. An organization may have such a wealth of players at a particular position that an otherwise decent prospect may get lost in the shuffle.
The Texas Rangers, the parent club of the Hickory Crawdads, have such a problem at shortstop. At the big league level, Elvis Andrus is fast becoming an elite shortstop in the American League. Other names at short include 2011 Crawdads shortstop Jurickson Profar – currently among the elite prospects overall in the minors – and Luis Sardinas, currently one of two shortstops with the Crawdads and a top-20 prospect with the Rangers.
But there is hiding in the wings at Hickory is another shortstop: 19-year old Dominican Hanser Alberto.
Over the first six weeks of the season, the native of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R has been among the most consistent player for the Crawdads. With that he has begun to make waves within the Rangers organization.
He got his start in baseball like most kids in the Dominican, playing pickup games with other kids around town. But it was his father – a public address announcer at a local stadium – that saw the potential in Alberto to become a pro.
“My dad was always watching me and whatever I did in the field,” said Alberto through the translation of Crawdads assistant coach Humberto Miranda. “He had me thinking that I had a chance…Since he was an announcer, he taught me how to play the game. I learned how to field and how to hit just being around the coaches.”
Alberto was signed to a local baseball academy at age 13. A few years later, in 2008, he was part of a team that played in Chicago as part of a tournament set up by Major League Baseball.
“After that, I started taking baseball more seriously because I had a chance to make it as a pro” Alberto said.
His exploits on the field garnered the attention of several teams, including Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Kansas City before signing with the Rangers, who Alberto felt offered him a better chance to achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues.
“I liked the way that Texas played the game,” he said. “They way the chemistry is with the team and all that… I liked the way they worked and the way they played. I saw there was a chance that if I kept doing the right thing I could move up.”
He made his pro debut with the Rangers’ Dominican Summer League team in 2010. After starting slow due to a groin injury, Alberto caught fire for the Rangers leading his team to a playoff berth. He led the league with a .358 batting average, collecting 64 hits in 50 games.
The Rangers decided to challenge their young shortstop by having him skip the rookie level in the Arizona Summer League and move up to short-season A-ball in Spokane (Wash.). The combination of an ankle injury, plus making the adjustment in moving from the Dominican Republic to eastern Washington made for a tough season, relatively. Against competition often three to four years older, he hit.267 with the Indians and committed 20 errors at short in 53 games.
“Whenever I got back to 100% and I got back (in the lineup), I struggled a little bit and I couldn’t find myself,” Alberto said. “I went to Josue Perez to get help on the hitting side. I had to work on my defense too.”
Perez, who served as the hitting coach at Spokane last season before coming to Hickory this season, said that Alberto had to learn to experience things different than what is in the Dominican.
“When he came over here, it was a little bit of a different animal,” Perez said. “He didn’t know what to do on some pitches. In the Dominican at their age, they don’t see that good two-seamer and that good changeup at different counts. He was dealing with that last year.”
Coming into this season, Alberto feels that he has made the adjustments and the results have kept him in the top ten South Atlantic League hitters with a .326 average, while defensively he has made only seven errors.
“I’m very happy where Alberto is right now,” said Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler. “To see him make the transformation from Spokane last year, he’s learning how to go about his work before the game. He’s able to concentrate a little more in the game. He’s controlled the strike zone. Those are all the steps you want to see in the first four or five weeks.”
With the log jam at shortstop, Alberto is spending some time at third base and may experiment some at second to stay in the lineup as much as possible now and in the future.
“He wants to do anything it takes to help the team,” says Miranda, who works as the infield coach for Hickory. “If he has to play third, or if he has to play second, he’s going to do it. He’s fundamentally sound that he can play any position in the infield.”
For his part, Alberto is not afraid of the competition that he is a part of in the Rangers organization. When asked about what he looks to do to set himself apart, Alberto responds:
“(I’m) being blessed by God, first of all and my work ethic, where I give my 100% every day. That’s what I think is setting me apart from everybody else.”
Quotes about Alberto:
“Defensively, at shortstop, I didn’t know what we had until he started taking ground balls. He takes care of all the routine ones. He’s kind of a bigger shortstop and you think he’s not going to get to it and you look at where the other shortstops are, and he is.” 2012 Crawdads Manager Bill Richardson.
“A couple of years ago, when we signed Profar and Sardinas and all those guys, he was part of it, too. Obviously we couldn’t have them all at the same spot, but we always talk about having waves. So, okay, here’s the first wave and then the second wave and he’s part of the next wave. But we never thought about him as he’s behind them. No, he’s right there with them.” 2012 Crawdads hitting coach Josue Perez about how Alberto fit in among the other Rangers’ infield prospects at the time.
“Hanser is a nice sleeper. When I first got into this organization and saw all the middle infielders, I liked the way he played the best. He played with energy. He was always talking, always communicating. He played the game hard, always ran balls out. He played the game, from my perspective, the way it’s supposed to be played.” Casey Candaele, who was the Rangers infield coordinator in 2012.
“It’s a God-given ability. You don’t teach that. I just try to keep doing what Josue tells me to do. Get on top of the ball and find the pitch that I’ve been looking for and hit it. Now, when I get to two strikes, I think about putting the ball in play. Before two strikes, I try to find that pitch that I want.” Hanser Alberto, when asked how he learned to hit.