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Roster preview: Scott Hairston

Jan 24, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 33

How acquired: Traded from Cubs for RHP Ivan Pineyro and player-to-be-named, July 2013

2014 salary: $2.5 million (Cubs are paying $500,000 of that)

2013 stats (Nats only): 33 G, 62 PA, 5 R, 13 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 2 BB, 19 SO, .224 AVG, .246 OBP, .379 SLG, .625 OPS, 1 E, -4.5 UZR, -0.7 WAR

2014 storyline: Acquired in midseason to shore up a weak bench, Hairston didn’t contribute a whole lot to the Nationals, though he did hit .271 against left-handers. GM Mike Rizzo made the deal in large part because Hairston was already signed for another season, so this was part of the plan all along.

Davey Johnson had trouble getting Hairston any significant playing time, and Matt Williams will face an even tougher challenge in that regard, with Nate McLouth now on board as the No. 4 outfielder. Hairston’s at-bats will almost certainly come primarily against lefties, especially tough relievers late in games. The Nationals will have to hope his career .815 OPS against southpaws still applies.

Best-case scenario: Hairston proves to be a potent pinch-hitter and delivers big-time production in key spots late in games against lefty relievers. He finds his way into the lineup on occasion and hits .260 overall with 15 homers.

Worst-case scenario: Though he manages to connect for a few long balls every now and again, Hairston struggles to find any offensive groove when he’s not getting any regular playing time. He can’t crack the Mendoza Line, posts a sub-.250 on-base percentage and strikes out a ton in big spots off the bench. The Nationals end up releasing him in July.

Most-likely scenario: If used correctly, Hairston should be able to do some damage against left-handers. It’ll be up to Williams to find ways to maximize his abilities, but Hairston should be good for a .240 overall batting average, 10 homers and more than a few big hits in big spots off the bench.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2014 at 6:17 AM

    As much as i griped about the AAA infielders playing the outfield, I still never understood this move.The guy was never a great defensive player, seems noticeably slower, and he can’t hit right handed pitching if his life depended on it. I can’t fathom that one of our minor league outfielders couldn’t have done at least as well for a lot less money. I wish Scott well in 2014, but have near zero faith that he’ll be a key contributor.

    • nats128 - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      You summed that up well. The end game here is that Hairston had an awful 2013 and Rizzo expected a bounce back to the player we all saw for the Mets and that didnt happen. His 2 Nats HRs according to ESPN HR Track measured 384 feet and the other was 405. The 384 footer came off of bat speed of only 98.9mph. I dont know enough about him to analyze his bat speed and if its slowing but in HR terms, 98.9 is slow.

      His defense wont improve by much I would think and could decline due to age. His arm is poor. His range is below average for a outfielder. Its like Josh Willingham playing out there with Nyjer Morgans arm.

      I like what Hairston can do against Lefties and hate what he can do against Righties. While Hairston hit .271 against Lefties, he hit .000 against Righties.

      • tcostant - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        That “bounce back” could still happen this year. I hope.

  2. edshelton2013 - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    The only way Hairston hits 10 HRs this year (see Most Likely Scenario above) is if he gets over 300 ABs. This is based on his HR ratio per AB. He would have to get lots of PAs due to an injury by a starter–not something we want to see.

    • David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:55 AM

      Hairston hit 10 homers last year in 157 ABs.

  3. David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    Hairston had AWFUL luck in 2013. The average BABIP is around .300, give or take some depending on the hitter. Hairston’s BABIP was .185. That was while maintaining line drive rate similar to his career norms. Nothing looks out of whack except for the laughably low BABIP.

    • NatsLady - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Low BABIP isn’t all bad luck. Is he hitting hard line drives that are being caught? That can be bad luck. Or is he hitting weak grounders, like Span did during his slump? Is he hitting fly balls with not enough power to get past the warning track? Although .185 is extraordinarily low, Hairston doesn’t usually have a BABIP over .300 (or even close to it), because he doesn’t hit a lot of doubles. Compare, for example, to Ryan Zimmerman’s BABIP, which is always over ..300.

      You can look at Fangraphs to see their projections for 2014. If Hairston gets 600 PAs, they estimate 25 HRs. If he gets 125 PAs, they estimate 5 HRs. Basically, his value comes from his power. He’s a flyball hitter, so if he loses power, that’s the end for him.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1926&position=OF

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4220&position=3B

      • David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        You’re absolutely right, however Hairston has a career BABIP of .273. .185 is still just comically low. His ISO (isolated power) was still very, very good and showed no signs of decline. His LD% was down from 2012 (as someone said above), but was still more-or-less in line with his career numbers.

  4. sjm308 - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t gamble with Tyler Moore as your bat against lefties and go with another player for your bench that can actually play the outfield. Keeping them both gives you two minus defenders and that is not the kind of bench I think we need. Is Rizzo too stubborn to admit a mistake? I hope not. I want to clarify that while I am keeping Moore over Hairston, he is not allowed in the outfield except during batting practice , spring training, and for pop flys when playing first.

    Go Nats!

    • David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:58 AM

      Because Hairston isn’t a mistake. For one, while he’s not a plus defender by any stretch, he’s WAY better than Moore in the outfield. Hairston had awful luck last year (see my post above). The entire goal is to platoon Hairston and McLouth in the OF if someone goes down.

      Plus, like you said Moore backs up 1B, not OF.

      • sjm308 - Jan 24, 2014 at 8:27 AM

        I hope you are correct David. I think as guys get older that “luck” you talk about is also a combination of slowing down. When you say Hairston is WAY better than Moore that is not a ringing endorsement. Hairston is NOT a good defender, and you can’t spin that by comparing him to Moore. My suggestion is to keep Moore at first, and use him as our right handed pinch hitter and take the spot Hairston is filling right now and replace it with a young defensive minded outfielder that can actually run, catch and throw.

  5. flnatsfan - Jan 24, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Off topic but…This is a very cool article about 2014’s best starting rotations: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/67048822/.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      Good piece; thanks for the link.

  6. Hiram Hover - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Agree with DP about Hairston’s BABIP being likely to come up and with it some of his other numbers.

    One warning sign, tho – it looks like he hit a lot more fly balls last year – more in % terms than in 2012 and more than his career average. If that’s just the luck of the statistical draw, it’s one thing. If it’s a sign of diminished power and/or him swinging for the fences and just lofting lazy fly balls, then it’s trouble.

    In 2012, his best career year, he was hitting a lot more line drives in % terms than last year or his career norms. I don’t think he ever returns to that, but I think he can be a modestly successful bench bat.

    • NatsLady - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      Saw your post after I made mine. Same thought.

      • Hiram Hover - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        Great minds and all …

  7. David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Lucas Gioltio was MLB.com’s #44 prospect and AJ Cole #69. If Giolito pitches this season without injury, he is likely to be a top ten prospect next year. Here is what they said about Giolito:

    “Giolito was considered to be the top prep pitcher in the 2012 Draft class until a sprained ulnar collateral ligament shut him down in early March. The Nationals made him the No. 16 overall pick anyway, signing him to a well-above slot deal. Giolito made one professional appearance before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound in July of 2013 and showed the same premium stuff that first got the attention of scouts.

    Giolito throws his fastball in the mid- to upper-90s, often reaching 100 mph. He throws a hard, 12-to-6 curveball that is almost as good as his fastball. His changeup isn’t as well developed as his other two pitches, but it has the potential to be a third above-average Major League offering. He has good command and an advanced feel for pitching.

    If he can stay healthy, Giolito has as much potential as any pitcher in the Minor Leagues.”

    And here is what they said about Cole:

    “The Nationals have acquired Cole twice, first when they drafted him in 2010 and then again in March 2013 in the Michael Morse deal. In between, Cole was part of the package they sent to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez. After a disappointing year with the A’s, Cole broke out in his return to the Nationals, reaching Double-A Harrisburg and pitching in the 2013 Futures Game.

    Cole relies on his fastball, which sits in the mid-90s and reaches 98 mph. He commands the pitch well and isn’t afraid to come after hitters with it. Though both his changeup and curveball aren’t as advanced as his fastball, both have the potential to be Major League-average offerings.

    If Cole can hone his offspeed pitches, he has the potential to be the latest homegrown member of the Nationals rotation.”

  8. natsfan1a - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Not sure whether this was already posted but the ST radio schedule is now up:

    http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/schedule/broadcast/index.jsp?c_id=was

    • David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      1 month and 4 days until the first broadcast

  9. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    I can’t fault anything David Proctor has written here about Scott Hairston’s BABIP bad luck and his potential to return to more productive form in the role of a bench-bat, fifth-outfielder. But I continue to have a gut feeling that Mr. Hairston’s best pinch-hitting days are over and that the Nats would be better served with a more versatile player (one of those corner-infielder-and-corner-outfielder types, like Jeff Baker), but there aren’t any left on the free agent market (except Mr. Baker) who would truly be an upgrade over a Scott Hairston/Tyler Moore combination. Of course, that gut feeling I have could just be last night’s stuffed mushrooms coming back to haunt me.

  10. Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Honestly, the two best things that I can say about Scott’s outfield play vs. Tyler -1:Hairston does track the ball better. 2: Hairston has enough common sense to get of Denard’s way when on a ball hit between them. Twice Span was lucky that Moore didn’t put him on the DL.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Get out of the way.

      I really must learn to edit before posting comment.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:41 AM

        Oh, crap. Never mind! Duh!

  11. sjm308 - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    David: thanks for the news on Giolito & Coles. I am surprised that Brian Goodwin fell out of the top 100. I think he was in the top 60 last year. I did not think his season was that bad but I am guessing it was not great. Does this move Taylor ahead of him in the pecking order? Is Eurey Perez now history? Where did Robbie Ray end up?

    Lots of questions, thanks in advance for those of you that study this.

    • David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Robbie Ray was #97, although I’m skeptical he’d have been on the list at all if not for the trade.

      Goodwin did fall off completely, which was pretty surprising. Goodwin needs to have a big year this year at AA. I’d say he’s still the top of the pecking order for now, but the organization loves Michael Taylor’s defense and his bat is improving. Don’t forget Steven Souza either. Souza hit .300/.396/.557 last year at AA with 15 homers and 20 stolen bases in only 77 games. Plays good defense too. Baseball America compared him to Jayson Werth as a late bloomer but with a lot of upside. Souza might be more of a corner outfielder, though.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        If one of them pans out as a CF, that would be awesome. I like Taylor. His defense is highly regarded. BA rated him as best defensive OF for Nationals. As you said, his bat is improving and those steals will help too.

      • sjm308 - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        This is probably the only position in the field where we actually have depth and prospects. Do you guys think Rizzo will stay with the strategy of drafting pitchers and therefor finding position players via free agency and trades. It seems to me that neither Skole or Moore will be at first base in 2015. The other spots are taken care of with young established major leaguers with the exception of Jayson Werth & I am a huge Werth fan and do not see him huring our club in the next two years.

      • David Proctor - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        I think Rizzo will continue drafting pitchers, because even if we develop a surplus of them (you can never have too many), you can then trade them to get more developed position players.

      • unkyd59 - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        Young pitchers= Coin of the Realm

  12. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Something to keep in mind: Hultzen went from no 17 to off the list. Olt went from no 22 to off the list.

    I am interested in seeing where Burns rank for A’s prospects. He was outside top 10 for us, according to BA.

  13. Section 222 - Jan 24, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    While it would be great if we could get someone other than Hairston (and someone other than Espi) for the bench, at this point I’m mostly hoping that Rizzo will be quicker this year than last to recognize when changes need to be made. Chad Tracy was terrible from the start last year, but the reason he hurt the Nats so much is that he stayed on the team for the whole year. At least in 2011, Matt Stairs was let go in July.

    So if Hairston is the go to RH pinchhitter for a month or two, fine. But if he doesn’t improve from last year’s poor showing, whatever it was due to, make a change and move on.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      +1

  14. langleyclub - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    Fan of Rizzo, but clear that he has a weakness for former Diamondbacks. Hairston is a one-trick (hitting lefties) in a steep decline. Sorry, but the Nats could find many bench players with more to offer (he can’t play multiple positions, has no speed and is a poor defensive player) for less money. Waste of a roster spot. Agree with the hope that if Hairston has a Chad Tracy like line by the middle of May, Rizzo will cut his losses.

  15. JayB - Jan 24, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Man….I do not need to post at all anymore…you all agree with everything I ever posted about Rizzo being to stubborn and Bench is still way to weak and better options are out there…..see you when the season starts and Rizzo is doing his pig headed stuff as we waste another year on this 2014 model of of Chad T, Danny and HROD

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