Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects
By Jack Magruder
Arizona understood its young farm system wouldnt be able to produce enough talent to compete soon enough to suit its taste. The Diamondbacks didnt begin drafting until 1996, and even then they and the Devil Rays were placed at the end of the first round.
At the major league level, the Diamondbacks got the results they desired. Theyve enjoyed four straight winning seasons, including three playoff appearances and the 2001 World Series championship.
When they changed direction, the Diamondbacks also believed their system would be ready to begin supplying a steady stream of talent by 2003 or 2004. There are signs that part of the plan is falling in place.
While Arizona remains a veteran team built around aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the upper levels of the farm system have a growing reservoir of talent. That dovetails nicely with the next phase of Arizonas blueprint: to build through the system and with trades, with occasional free-agent signings.
Second baseman Junior Spivey and righthanders John Patterson and Mike Koplove made big league contributions in 2002, signaling the first charge of the minor leaguers. Spivey, a 36th-rounder from 1996, became the first Arizona draft choice ever to turn in a season-long, star-quality performance, hitting .301-16-78 with 11 steals.
Patterson and Koplove became valuable assets in part-time duty last year, and both figure prominently in the teams plans for 2003. Patterson will get every chance to make the rotation after the loss of four reliable arms over the winter. Koplove, who was so good that he was overworked in the second half of last season, will continue as a set-up specialist.
The organization used Erubiel Durazo in a trade to bring in Elmer Dessens for the rotation. Lyle Overbay is expected to take over at first base this year after batting .345 on his trek through the minors. Lefthander Mike Gosling and righthander Brandon Webb lead the next wave of pitchers.
"We have a lot of people who could come to camp and compete for a job in 2003," general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "Thats the first time the Diamondbacks have been able to say that, though its exactly what they were hoping all along."
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Central Arizona JC, 2000 (3rd round). Signed by: Steve Kmetko.
Background: Hairston wasnt born with a bat in his handbut he could have been. His baseball gene is as dominant as any Bell or Boone. Hairstons grandfather Sam was a fixture in the Negro Leagues before getting a taste of the majors in 1951. His father Jerry Sr. was a 14-year major leaguer who manages the White Sox Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate. His uncle John got four big league at-bats in 1969, while his brother Jerry Jr. starts at second base for the Orioles. Scott has the tools to surpass all of them. He won the Arizona junior college triple crown in 2001, then tied for the minor league lead with 73 extra-base hits and topped the Midwest League with a .426 on-base percentage in his first full pro season.
Strengths: Hairston is a strong, solidly built athlete with the physique of a running back. With a short, compact stroke, he can turn around any fastball and drive pitches to all parts of the ballpark. When pitchers stopped throwing him strikes at low Class A South Bend because he was virtually his teams entire offense, he adjusted and took walks. Hairston has a good eye and above-average speed. While he is not the basestealing threat that his brother is, he could swipe 10-15 bases a season. Hes out of the Jeff Kent mold, a power-first second baseman made more valuable because of the exceptional wallop he provides for his position.
Weaknesses: Hairston spent at least four days a week in the Arizona Fall League working on his defense, especially on turning the double play. He has the tools for second basequick hands, good range, adequate armbut most who saw him in the Midwest League projected him as a left fielder. One scout who covered the league said Hairston didnt put any effort into his defense, let alone run out a grounder, but the Diamondbacks dont have any questions about his makeup. They also dont doubt hell be able to stay at second base.
The Future: After tearing up three levels in two seasons, Hairston will continue his ascent at Double-A El Paso this year. He could reach Triple-A Tucson by the end of the season. Arizona incumbent Junior Spivey was a 2002 all-star, but the Diamondbacks will get both in the lineup eventually by moving one to the outfield.
Click here for prospects 2-10.