OF Scott Van Slyke -- Prospect #35

Latest in a series on top Dodger prospects as we count down to the very best. While Bill Shelley is on medical leave, take a look at Prospect #35, OF Scott Van Slyke.

Before the 2005 draft most clubs believed that Scott Van Slyke wasn't quite ready for pro ball and that he would accept the scholarship he had from the University of Mississippi to play for them. Therefore he was still available in the 14th round where the Dodgers took a chance on him. Like the others, they felt he was headed to Ole Miss and that physically he just wasn't ready.

They also felt that three years in college could boost him into a first or second-rounder and they probably wouldn't get a shot at him again so they came up with the offer that turned him into a pro.

The rationale was he had room on his 6-5 frame for muscle; he's very athletic (having starred in both football and basketball in high school); he was named the Missouri High School Player of the Year and his father Andy was an All-Star outfielder in his day and is now a coach for the Detroit Tigers.

The feeling now is that they well have gotten more than they had hoped for but the progress, as they expected, will be a slow, steady one.

During that first year they worked on shortening his stroke and opening his front side more to generate more bat speed. In the field, his arm is above average.

He also has the knowledge that he's gained by being around the game all his life. In all, he looks like one that in a couple of years could well become an exciting player.

Having spent much of his younger days around professional baseball where his father was excelling, Scott understands the difficulty of it all. He grew up in a household where everyone around him discussed -- and dissected -- the game.

He knows how hard he must work and how good he must be to reach the big leagues. No one knows better than he does that baseball's minor leagues function like a pass-fail trade school.

A player is selected in the draft, reports to rookie ball and starts climbing the ladder. If he's good enough, he'll earn promotions. If he's not good enough, he'll be traded or released. The low wages, long bus trips and constant evaluation by club officials weed out those who lack ability or dedication.

"It's a game of percentages," said Scott, who batted .254 with two home runs and 35 RBIs in 104 games last year with Great Lakes. "There's a rollover factor. This year ends, there's a new draft next year, and 30 more kids are going to come in."

The Van Slykes appreciate the uniqueness of a year in which Andy can drive two hours and watch Scott play. If the Tigers are off when the Loons are home -- which has happened about a half-dozen times this year -- Andy makes the trip, and father and son bond over a bucket of baseballs in the batting cage.

The instruction is intensive, and Scott prefers it that way. He can tell that his father truly enjoys teaching the game.

While watching him Andy told the Detroit Free Press, "It's learning to perform under pressure. Do you embrace it? Do you fear it? Are you going up there with the bases loaded, licking your chops?

"You can have the most perfect swing, but if you're not licking your chops, it's irrelevant. You have to want to be at the plate in that situation. And you'd better not be looking to the on-deck circle."

Andy Van Slyke shares his assessments freely. He is candid but not critical. He praises when appropriate, but he will not make excuses for unsatisfactory results -- whether he's talking about one of the Tigers or his son.

When asked, for example, about Scott's pregame session in the batting cage, Andy said, "For 10 swings, he looked like a big-league hitter. For 30, you could tell he's in A-ball."

Later, in evaluating Scott's offensive approach, he said: "You can't be 6-feet-5 and be a singles hitter. That's just the way it is ... He's got to hit a bunch of balls over and to the wall.

"I probably do overload him, to be honest with you, while I'm here," Van Slyke said, as he reflected on his visits to Midland this year. Then he added: "It's like a lot of information in life. You keep what's useful and spit out the rest."

He paused. "Hopefully, he's wise enough to use all of it."

Scott has the size and temperament to become an outstanding player. But at 24, he is behind the curve at the present time. He will probably start the 2008 season at Inland Empire
Scott Van Slyke    bb  tr   6-5   215
Born-July 26, 1984 in Chesterfield, MO
Obtained- Selected in the 14th round of the 2005 draft

year	team     ave  obp    gm   ab   r   h   2b 3b hr bi  sb
2005	GCL	.262  .330   24   85  15  24   4  1  2  15  4
2006	Ogden	.256  .320   45  156  18  40   5  2  2  17  5
2007	GLakes	.254  .310  104  351  38  89  18  1  2  35  4

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