After recalling their most major league ready hitting prospect, the Dodgers seem intent on using Scott Van Slyke sparingly. With Bobby Abreu scheduled to get the majority of starts in LF, will SVS get anything out of his MLB debut?
Scott Van Slyke was drafted in the 14th round of the 2005 draft, following in the footsteps of his All Star father Andy. However, Scott has had a different path to the big leagues than his dad. The younger Van Slyke took several years to develop, first breaking out in 2009 with the Inland Empire 66ers. However, in 2010, he struggled in his first taste of Double A at the age of 23, returning to the Cal League. He rebounded in 2011 and hit a blistering .348/.427/.595 for the Lookouts with 69 extra base hits.
That brings us to 2012, where he was destroying the PCL to the tune of a 1.034 OPS in 32 games. He had 18 extra base hits and 16 walks compared to just 17 strikeouts. Oddly, after demolishing lefties in 2011 (.370 BA, 1.143 OPS), he was posting reverse platoon splits against them this season (.295 BA, .792 OPS). That's likely to change due to small sample size.
So what will SVS do with the club this year? That depends on two factors: Bobby Abreu's production and Matt Kemp's health.
Abreu, who was plucked off the scrap heap 10 days ago, has gone 7 for his first 23 since joining the Dodgers. That includes 4 doubles and a pair of walks. These numbers far exceed his recent production with the Angels, where he hit .255 in 2010, .253 in 2011 and just .208 before his release in 8 games in 2012.
While he's hit well in a very small number of games, odds are his production drops off sooner rather than later. And while Don Mattingly loves playing vets over rookies, there doesn't seem to be anyone who can challenge Van Slyke in terms of production once Abreu hits the wall. That should lead to increased playing time and at least a decent amount of production.
The other scenario to consider is the health of Matt Kemp's hamstring. According to Tony Jackson, the Dodgers are ready to recall Elian Herrera from Triple A if Kemp's MRI comes back showing something significant. If Matt has to go on the DL, you can be sure that the Dodgers will need a big bat to fill in. Abreu ain't it and it could force the club to seek out a bat via trade.
In the meantime, it could provide Van Slyke with an opportunity to come in and toss a cork into the volcanic hole in the offense left by Kemp's absence. I'd assume Tony Gwynn Jr. would get the majority of starts in center field, which would be great defensively and, as for offense, would be great defensively,
And what should Dodger fans expect from Scott in his time on the club? It all depends on the situation. If Van Slyke remains a platoon/part time player, I could foresee some positive results. While he's a big dude and a power hitter, he's improved his contact rates and approach enough to succeed in a part time role. He should crush lefties, much like Jerry Sands did last year.
If he's the full time left fielder, I see decent production at best, something along the lines of .250/.330/.420. Probably more than the club would have gotten out of Juan Rivera over a full season but not exactly setting the world on fire. Still, enough to warrant a look next spring when the left field and (presumably) first base jobs are open for the taking.