Anthony Ranaudo was a once-dominant college pitcher who only fell to the 39th pick of the 2010 draft because an elbow injury severely limited his effectiveness in his junior season. The Red Sox scooped him up hoping they could work out a deal, but as they negotiate, it's hard to imagine that the image of Craig Hansen doesn't pop into their minds whenever they think about Ranaudo.
Hansen was a dominant college pitcher at St. John's. There, he converted 14 saves while striking out 85 batters in 64 1/3 innings pitched in his sophomore season. His 1.68 ERA helped him earn All-American honors, and he was drafted in the first round in 2005 by the Red Sox.
He was a college stud, and at age 21, he looked primed to step in quickly as an impact pitcher in the bullpen. Instead, he was a 21-year-old pitcher who had a lot to learn.
Hansen, who signed a reported four-year deal worth $4 million, pitched just three innings in 2005, giving up two runs on six hits. He struck out three and had just one bad outing in his four appearances. In 2006, things weren't so good. He pitched in 38 games for the Red Sox, finishing with a 6.63 ERA. It could have been seen as a learning experience if he was able to build on it, but he wasn't.
Hansen never got the call to the big leagues in 2007, thanks in part to the acquisition of Eric Gagne. When he got his shot in 2008, at 24 years old, he posted a 5.58 ERA in 32 appearances. On July 31, he was traded to Pittsburgh in the deal that sent Manny Ramirez out of Boston. Just like that, the can't-miss pitching prospect was gone.
In Pittsburgh, he didn't fare any better, posting a 1-4 record with a 7.47 ERA the rest of the way. He was sent down to Triple-A before August ended, and he would make just five appearances in 2009. He suffered a nerve injury that has kept him from pitching since that April, and his future is very much in question.
As with any comparison between players, it's not apples to apples with Hansen and Ranaudo. Still, as Scott Boras and Ranaudo play hardball with the Red Sox, the thought of Hansen may give the team at least a bit of pause at signing Ranaudo to a big-bucks contract.
"I think he’s in line to get that top-five, top-10 overall bonus that he’s looking for before the draft, and my guess is that the Red Sox will work something out to sign this guy," Keith Law, ESPN and Scouts Inc. baseball analyst, said on WEEI on Monday. "It’s really in both sides' best interests to get a deal done [before] the deadline."
Law's rave reviews of Ranaudo sound similar to what scouts were saying about Hansen when he was coming out of college.
"He was very impressive, hit 94 I think six times in the first inning,
sat at 90-93 the rest of the day, which is where he’ll pitch," Law said on WEEI. "He showed
an above-average curveball, didn’t really use the changeup, although he
didn’t need to — he’s just kind of overmatching kids at this level."
In 2006, Hansen was ranked by Baseball America as the Red Sox' fourth-best prospect, nestled among Andy Marte, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz. His ceiling was high, but unfortunately for both him and the Red Sox, his potential was never reached.
To say Ranaudo's situation in 2010 is the same as Hansen's wouldn't be fair, but it is similar. Based on Ranaudo's outstanding performance in the Cape League summer, his elbow troubles appear to be well in the past. Still, the career of Craig Hansen helps explain why there may be at least some hesitancy on the part of the Red Sox to hand him the contract of a top-five pick.