OBG08: Scott Hairston

Scott HairstonBy now you’ve heard that the Minnesota Twins have agreed to trade left-hander Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey. Beyond the obvious impact this will have on the balance of power in the National League, there’s an important lesson here for those who would trade Khalil Greene simply for the sake of trading him.

Do you see the name of Philip Hughes anywhere in the list of players coming to Minnesota? I don’t, and that’s a problem. Greene wouldn’t fetch such a lofty package, of course, but when folks start suggesting that Coco Crisp and assorted scraps might be a reasonable offer, maybe it’s time to consider other options, like hanging onto the guy, getting some use out of him, and then collecting draft picks.

But we’re not talking about Greene today. Nope, we’re talking about Scott Hairston, the man who came excruciatingly close to becoming last season’s hero.

Hairston was a highly regarded second-base prospect in the Arizona system who shifted to the outfield because of “defensive deficiencies” and then got hurt. He came to the Padres last July 27 in a trade for minor-league reliever Leo Rosales. The Padres were chasing Arizona at the time, and Rosales was on the DL, which gives you a good indication of how far Hairston’s stock had fallen.

Anyway, Hairston batted .287/.337/.644 in 95 plate appearances down the stretch. If nothing else, he proved that he can crush a letter-high fastball — shades of Reggie Sanders.

The questions now are these:

  • How much of Hairston’s improvement in 2007 was real, and how much was a small-sample illusion?
  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Will Chase Headley eat into his playing time, and if so, how will this affect Hairston’s performance?

We saw Russell Branyan kick serious tail toward the end of 2006 before fizzling in a more limited role last year. Could the same thing happen to Hairston?

I think the growth is legit and that Hairston will adapt to reduced playing time better than Branyan did: 400 PA, .266/.318/.481. What do you think?