Keep swingin’: Hanser Alberto now among the AL’s top 10 hitters

Maybe if big league teams knew he’d be batting over .300 and be the majors’ leading hitter against left-handed pitching, Hanser Alberto would not have bounced around over the winter and into spring training like a hot potato and not a wanted young player.

After a winter that started with him playing for Texas, Alberto was claimed via waivers by the Yankees, then by the Orioles, followed by the Giants and then again by the Orioles.

The Yankees claimed him Nov. 2 from the Rangers and the Orioles claimed him Jan. 11, but he was designated for assignment by Baltimore on Feb. 19 when the club added lefty reliever Josh Osich. Three days later the Giants claimed the 26-year-old Alberto. And 10 days later the Orioles claimed him back.

Bet they are happy they did. And so is Alberto, who is finally getting regular major league at-bats and taking advantage of this great opportunity.

“When you get a chance to play consistently, your mind can work differently,” he said in an early season interview. “You can go 0-for-4 today but tomorrow your name may again be in the lineup. That gives you confidence. That is the big thing right now for me. Having fun, staying confident and getting a chance to play often. When you get to the big leagues, everyone wants to play every day. Plus, I’m having fun with this group of guys here.”

Alberto’s batting average has been over .300 every day since June 8. When the American League leaders came out after Tuesday’s games, Alberto finally had enough plate appearances to qualify. He was tied for third in the AL batting .318 and tied for ninth in MLB. After he went 1-for-5 with a triple last night, Alberto is batting .315/.335/.399 over 65 games with nine doubles, a triple, three homers and 21 RBIs. He ranks sixth in the AL in average and 13th in MLB.

The player that kept getting waived is among the top 13 hitters in the majors in batting average.

Alberto is batting .413 against left-handed pitching, the best in the majors among qualifying hitters. He can’t quite explain why, but it seems to be a source of pride for his family with him No. 1 in the big leagues in that stat.

Hanser-Alberto-Celebrates-Home-Run-vs-NYY-White-Sidebar.jpg“I don’t know, since the minor leagues I’ve been good against lefties. I don’t know what the difference is, but I think I see the ball better against them. Have always had a good plan and things are working good. I just think I’m seeing the ball good against lefties.

“My family sends me notes on that (of congratulations). But when I get in there I don’t think about that. I just try to have a good at-bat, get on base and get the job done.”

Alberto is a pretty good contact hitter. He puts the ball in play and that must be a part of his success. While he has one of the worst walk rates on the team at 2.9 percent he also doesn’t strikeout much at 9.0 percent. He gets bat to ball and good things can happen.

“I have always been like that,” he said. “I think the most I got was 20 walks in a season in Triple-A and the most strikeouts were 49 (both numbers were exactly right, by the way, good memory). I try to work on that, get a good pitch and put the ball in play. While I am still learning, I don’t want to lose my aggressiveness. But getting more walks would help my on-base percentage and give me more situations to help the team.”

He said coaches have talked to him in the past about working on a better on-base percentage.

“Always they did at Texas,” he said. “Especially later in my career they’ve been talking about taking pitches. But they also know if I lose my aggressiveness, I mean, I think I can be both aggressive and smart. But being selective with pitches hasn’t worked as much to take a lot of walks.

“But what I am doing right now is what I did in the minor leagues. When you have an opportunity, you can gain confidence. This is way different from the minors. They don’t make many mistakes, so you have to have a plan every single day.”

Alberto is aggressive early in the count looking for a heater. When he gets one he can handle, he’s been doing some nice things for the Orioles.

“I look mostly fastball up to two strikes. Some days you are feeling different and you can get a hanger and you feel good. But often I stay up there looking fastball up to two strikes. There are some pitchers that may throw curves in any count, you need to be ready for that but most of the time I’m looking fastball,” Alberto said.

With his success at-bat this year Alberto is showing he should both stay in the major leagues now and perhaps is setting himself up to stay here in the future - with the Orioles or another team down the road. But he’s not getting even a little carried away right now, even as he takes a top 10 AL batting average to the plate each night.

“You’ve got to stay humble, so I don’t think too much about that. Thing can change quick in baseball,” he said.

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