July 30, 2011
A New Ingredient for the Brew
Acquired IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. from Nationals for OF-R Erik Komatsu. [7/30]
Depth is one of those underrated aspects of team-building that doesn’t come into focus until a team needs it. The Brewers, with Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks on the disabled list, needed depth, and Doug Melvin has wrangled up some from the far corners of the trade market. On Thursday, Melvin acquired Felipe Lopez from Tampa Bay for cash considerations, and on Saturday, he added Hairston Jr.
The appeal of Hairston Jr. is his flexibility. He can play all over and has played all over for most of his career. This season alone, Hairston Jr. got work at five different positions for the Nationals, including shortstop, second base, third base, and center field—all of which he might be asked to man for the Brewers. As you would expect, his defense depends on what position he is playing, but that is true of any super-utility man. The Brewers should be fine in this regard as long as they don’t ask him to become a full-time shortstop.
One development to watch out for is if the Brewers decide to use Hairston Jr. in a platoon with Nyjer Morgan. Morgan has never fared well against lefties, this season included, and the Brewers designated the incumbent right-handed center fielder (Brett Carroll) for assignment to make room for Hairston Jr. With Gomez at least a month away from returning and the Brewers lacking the prospects to acquire one of the frontline right-handed center fielders available, Hairston Jr. could see time there over the next few weeks.
As for the bat, Hairston Jr. has hit .265/.327/.393 since the 2008 season. Without context, that isn’t a line worth writing home about. However, the Brewers other utility infielder options right now are even less worthy of gracing a letter. Josh Wilson has shown some pop in limited action this season, but his career line is .229/.282/.324. Craig Counsel, on the other hand, has an 0-for-41 streak intact (dating back to June 11) and has walked once during that span.
If the goal is just to upgrade wherever possible, then it’s hard to paint this move as anything but a success. Acquiring Hairston Jr. isn’t a move that is going to hold off the Cardinals on its own, but it is a trade that adds a layer of depth to a team already in first place and without the capacity to make another splash move. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired OF-R Erik Komatsu from Brewers for IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. [7/30]
I was speaking to a scout on Wednesday night who is responsible for covering the Brewers system from top to bottom. If you do what I do, these are the best guys to know. He sees every team from Low-A Wisconsin to the big leagues, so he not only sees the players, but the past tense applies as well, so he has seen each player develop and either improve or regress. We were talking about some of the usual suspects in the system at the upper levels like pitchers Wily Peralta and trying to figure out why the Brewers just don't want to give Taylor Green a look, when he suddenly said, “You know who I really like? Komatsu. That guy can really hit.”
An eighth-round pick in 2008, Komatsu finally appeared on the radar when he hit .323/.413/.442 last year in the Florida State League, and this season he's proven it was no fluke at the upper levels with a .294/.393/.416 line for Double-A Huntsville. He's not a star, but he as an excellent approach, as evidenced by his 53 walks over just 320 at-bats. He also has fantastic hands and a feel for contact, as evidenced by his mere 44 strikeouts. The issue has always been, however, where he does he play? He's small and has no more than gap power. He's just a 50-55 runner, leaving him as the kind of center fielder than can play there in a pinch but not one you want there every day. What he can do is hit right-handed pitching, run well, and play all three outfield positions, which should lead to a long career as a second division starter or fourth outfielder in the big leagues. —Kevin Goldstein
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.