As a new member of the Akron RubberDucks, Todd Hankins is making an early impression on his new teammates and coaches. With the ability to play all over the field, Hankins is always finding a way into manager David Wallace’s lineup.
Hankins, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifteenth round of the 2011 draft. He made his minor league debut with short season Mahonning Valley in 2011. In 65 games with the Scrappers, Hankins hit .246/.318/.672 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs along with 14 stolen bases. Hankins is a well-rounded player who can bring plenty of tools to the table.
“Well definitely my speed,” Hankins says regarding the tools that he brings.
“I play pretty good defense at multiple positions on the field. I play a pretty good outfield, I can play multiple positions in the infield. Hitting for average, I’m not really a power hitter but I can get into a few balls here and there. I’ll hit a few out.”
In his 5 seasons in the minors, Hankins has stolen 106 bases, averaging 21 bases a season. In 2013, he stole 31 between the Arizona League, Low-A Lake County, and High-A Carolina. His speed is his biggest asset that he brings to the club. Since Hankins doesn’t go deep very often, getting on base is extremely important for him. When he makes contact, he’s able to run out a lot of balls that other players may not. Getting to first can very well turn into a double for him by stealing second, or legging out a long single.
The disruption that he brings to the base path is also huge for a team. Pitchers have to keep an eye on Hankins, or else he’ll be gone before they know it, and they’ll have a runner in scoring position that they’ll have to worry about. He’s the kind of player that any manager would love to have at the top of their lineup.
“He’s just a guy that you love to write in the lineup,” Wallace said. “He’s the kind of player who can create havoc and fun to watch. I didn’t get to see him last year, but he’s really grown and matured and he’s going to be a fun player to have.”
Not only does Hankins bring speed to the game, but he brings the ability to play multiple positions not just in the infield, but the outfield as well.
“It’s a good thing to be able to move around the field. It doesn’t hold you down to a specific position,” Hankins said. “I don’t want it to be that I’m not good enough to play a specific position for an entire season. It’s just that I’m good enough to play multiple positions whenever they need me to. If they need me to be an everyday second basemen or centerfielder I could do that, but I also have the ability to move around the field and not miss a beat. “
The utility type of a player is becoming a lot more necessary for teams in major league baseball. These types of players allow a manager to hold fewer players on their bench, and bring in more arms for their pen, or create more space on the bench for guys to provide platoon options at multiple positions. The Indians currently have ultra-utility man Mike Aviles who can play pretty much anywhere on the field, except catcher. He’s been a huge commodity for Terry Francona because if it was Francona’s decision, he’d have 15 bullpen pitchers, and Aviles allows him to have a least one more guy in the pen.
Hankins hasn’t always been a super-utility player though. He only played the infield up until last season when he started to get some reps in center field while at High-A Carolina.
“It was where the at bats were going to be for me playing in the outfield. My speed was able to let me do a good job out there,” Hankins said. “When you’ve got speed, the main thing about playing center field is being able to track down balls and take away hits from the other team. After a few games out there I started to get really comfortable out there and it worked out well.”
His mind is always on getting his at bats, and doing whatever he can to help out his team. Whether it’s playing second base or centerfield, he’s willing to do it all.
Last season, Hankins spent most of his time in High-A Carolina, although he did get his first cup of coffee in Triple-A Columbus as well. Now he’s in Double-A Akron for the first time, and he’s making the most of it. As of Monday, he’s currently hitting .293/.348/.762 with 3 doubles, 1 triple, and 3 stolen bases along with 3 RBI in 10 games thus far. He’s a career .243 hitter, so I assume we’ll see that batting average regress as the season goes along, but his career OBP stands at .325 so even though he doesn’t always hit the ball, he still finds a way to get on base.
In his first Double-A game, Hankins went 3-6 with 3 runs scored, and 1 RBI. That solo RBI was scored during a bases loaded situation with only one out. Hankins came to the plate just hoping to bring someone in, and not do too much.
“I knew that even if I hit a ground ball to the middle of the field, 90% that they wouldn’t be able to throw me out at first base and turn two on me, so that would have been an RBI,” Hankins said. “So I focused up the middle and just try to get a pitch that I could hit that way. I wasn’t trying to do too much with it.”
His speed gives him the ability to evaluate at bats in this fashion. Being able to leg out infield singles is huge for a club when they’re trying to manufacture runs. This makes Hankins valuable to almost any team.
It’s going to be fun seeing what Hankins is capable of doing in his first time around Double-A. His speed and versatility should give him the opportunity to excel within the system, and we could be seeing him in Triple-A Columbus sooner rather than later. If he continues to rake like he is right now in Akron, his chances of making it up to the big league club could come to fruition even sooner than anyone would have expected. Hankins is a name that people should start remembering.
The RubberDucks are currently 4-6 and sitting in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division after dropping a series to the Altoona Curve this weekend. They’ll hope to rebound this week as the face the Reading Fighting Phils. Then they’ll come home to take on the Bowie Baysox for four starting Thursday, April 23.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer