Position: 2B Height: 6-1 Weight: 190 Born: 5/25/80 Bats: Right Throws: Right
The Diamondbacks drafted Scott Hairston in the third round in the 2001 draft, out of Central Arizona Junior College. He comes from a baseball family: his brother Jerry Jr. plays second base for Baltimore, his father Jerry was a major-leaguer, and his grandfather Sam played in the Negro Leagues. Hairston destroyed the Pioneer League after signing, then followed that up with a terrific 2002 season at the Class A Midwest and California Leagues. He began this season at Double-A El Paso, and has played reasonably well in the Texas League, though he's missed time to injury.
Hairston's baseball family background shows up in both his tools and his skills. He is a fine athlete, with good strength and mobility. He doesn't have awesome running speed, but gets good jumps, and can't be ignored on the bases even though he isn't a huge base-stealer. Offensively, Hairston features a quick swing and power to all fields. The ball jumps off his bat. He has few real weaknesses as a hitter, and should hit for both average and power at the major-league level. He could stand to improve his strike-zone judgment, but so far he's had little trouble with pro pitching. Defensively, Hairston's range and hands are good enough for second base, no question, but he is erratic defensively, and some people have questioned his commitment to defense. An El Paso source informs me that he has put great effort into his glovework this year, and Hairston has made six errors in 51 games so far. Hairston has enough range and mobility to play outfield if necessary, but if he can remain at second base, his value will be enhanced.
Hairston's Class A numbers were impeccable: high batting averages, excellent power, decent walk rates, not too many strikeouts. He combined for 46 doubles and 22 homers last year. This season, making the transition to Double-A has cut into his performance, although he's still getting on base at an adequate clip and is showing pop. It's hard to know how much of the slippage is due to the higher level of competition, and how much is due to injury problems.
Muscle pulls and a stiff back have bothered Hairston on-and-off in previous years, but this year his back flared up significantly, causing him to miss almost a month of action. He is back on the playing field now, and is expected to be OK, although back problems often recur, and the situation will have to be monitored.
What to expect
Hairston is one of the best hitting prospects in the game. Assuming the back problems are not a long-term issue, he could be up late this season and have a shot for a job next year. Depending on what happens with Junior Spivey, Hairston may not end up at second base, even if his defense there is solid. But his bat is very promising, and by itself makes him a prospect to track closely.
John Sickels is the author of the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered from his Web site, JohnSickels.com. His biography of Bob Feller will be published this fall by Brassey's. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.