Position: 2B Height: 6-1 Weight: 190 Born: 5/25/80 Bats: Right Throws: Right
When I was a kid back in the 70s, most second basemen were light-hitting singles whackers with good gloves: Bobby Randall, Jack Brohamer, guys like that. If you got a .280 average with six homers and some steals out of your second baseman, you were ecstatic. It didn't get much better than Willie Randolph or Manny Trillo. Nowadays, power-hitting middle infielders are more common, and Diamondbacks prospect Scott Hairston fits in this category. A third-round pick in 2001 out of Central Arizona Junior College, Hairston is the brother of Orioles infielder Jerry Hairston Jr., and the son of former major leaguer Jerry Hairston. Scott has a very potent bat, and is one of the more promising offensive players in Triple-A this year.
Hairston is a pure hitter. He uses a short, sharp stroke at the plate, with enough bat speed to kill most fastballs. He feasts on mediocre offerings, but it is difficult for even the fastest pitchers to overpower with pure heat. He sometimes swings at breaking balls or changeups outside the strike zone, and maintaining good plate discipline will be important for him. Scouts expect he will hit for both power and average at the major league level. Hairston has above-average speed, but isn't a big base stealer, and fits better in the middle part of the lineup rather than the top of the batting order. The main problem for him is defense. Although Hairston is a fine athlete, his glove has never been as good as his bat. He has decent range and a strong arm, but his hands aren't the best, he doesn't turn double plays well, and he has trouble with the routine grounder more often than he should. Hairston has made some progress improving his glovework, but is unlikely to be more than average defensively. There has been talk about moving him to third base or the outfield, but he's still playing second base at Tucson this year, and Arizona would love it if he can remain at the keystone long term.
Hairston has done well at every level. His 2003 numbers in Double-A weren't as impressive as his Class A performance, but he was hampered by injuries. He's healthy again this year and hitting well so far. Hairston's main weakness statistically is a high strikeout rate, and a not so high walk rate, since reaching Double-A. He's fanned 12 times in his first 10 games this year, though his other numbers at Tucson are just fine. The sample is small, of course, but it does reflect the need for him to keep track of the strike zone. Although scouts say that Hairston is ready or nearly ready to hit at the major league level, the numbers imply that he could use a nice dose of Triple-A pitching. In the long run, though, I don't think there's any question about his bat.
Last year was a tough season for Hairston injury-wise, as he missed about 40 percent of the season with back problems, namely a muscle strain. He's healthy now, but back problems can recur easily, so this will have to be monitored. It was clear that the soreness was inhibiting his ability to turn on pitches last year, but that hasn't been a problem this spring.
What to expect
Barring the need for a second baseman in Arizona, Hairston should spend 2004 at Tucson, working on his defense and polishing up his plate discipline. The thin PCL air should boost his natural offensive performance nicely. He is likely to be a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2005, if his chance doesn't come sometime this year.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation, is also out, and can be ordered through on-line book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife Jeri, son Nicholas, and feline friends Toonces and Spot.