Jacob Hannemann is off to a strong start on the road to bouncing back from injuries that curbed his minor league baseball rookie season.
The former BYU and Lone Peak High baseball star made his debut with the Class A Kane County (Ill.) Cougars on Thursday and, following a four-game series with the Quad Cities River Bandits, made it apparent he will be among the team's top offensive options.
Batting in the lead-off position, Hannemann hit .250 while leading Kane County in steals (three) and runs scored (four).
His best game came in the back half of a doubleheader on Saturday, a 5-4 Cougars victory.
In addition to leading off the game with his first home run of the season, Hannemann also stole two bases and scored twice. That included scoring the winning run in the top of the 10th inning; Hannemann showed his speed by getting on base after a dropped third strike, then came around to score on a single from Jacob Rogers.
"His skills are very raw, so his bust-potential is high," Rant Sports' Daniel Schmelzer wrote after watching Hannemann and the Cougars in the doubleheader. "However, his athleticism and pure baseball skills are very impressive, and that gives him a chance to put it all together and become a star."
Following his freshman year at BYU, which was preceded by a two-year mission to Arkansas for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hannemann was selected in the third round of the MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs last summer. His rookie year was limited, however, to 17 games between Short-Season Class A ball with the Boise Hawks and rookie ball in Mesa, Ariz., because of injuries, including a slight tear in his right elbow.
Still, his baseball potential had him ranked 18th among Cubs prospects by mlb.com heading into this season.
"Hanneman's ceiling is extremely high, though he's also a long-term project who will need time to get there," mlb.com's profile about Hannemann said. "He's a well-above-average runner with the compact swing and natural strength to hit for some power and average. Hannemann's only substandard tool is his arm, which is a liability but could get stronger after he undertakes a throwing program."
Hannemann's speed on the base paths has also caught the attention of his coaches.
“Hannemann hasn’t played a whole lot,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson told the Aurora (Ill.) Beacon-News. “His experience is limited, but I’m telling you, this kid can run. I haven’t seen a kid run like this in awhile. He’s going to be fun to watch.”
His only real weakness so far has been his discipline at the plate, as he struck out eight times in the four-game series, more than twice what any Cougars teammate did. That number was inflated by a four-strikeout day on Sunday in Kane County's 7-3 loss to Quad Cities, though he ended up with an RBI that day when he was walked with the bases loaded. That run momentarily gave the Cougars the lead.
“Something I want to bring more into play is bunting and stealing,” Hannemann told the Beacon-News prior to the series. “I have the speed (to do both) but I’ve never perfected them. I know it’s more of an art now (in professional baseball) and the coaches have really helped me out, so I’m going to give it a try.”
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