2012 in brief: Andy Van Slyke‘s kid showed good raw power and a strong throwing arm in limited time, but little else.
2013 status: Under team control, but guys who don’t get September call-ups generally shouldn’t expect much of a shot in camp the next year.
When Scott Van Slyke was recalled in early May after Juan Rivera was hurt, it was notable mostly because it wasn’t the terribly struggling Jerry Sands who got the call, signalling a potential shift in the organizational depth chart. As I argued at the time, his window to impress seemed to be open, but only for a short period:
But the Dodgers are likely to fill at least one of the holes at first base or left field this winter – if not both – and for the moment, he’s fallen behind Van Slyke, who has nothing but opportunity staring him in the face. With Rivera out and Jerry Hairston likely to join him on the DL, Van Slyke is sharing time at first base and left field with Loney, Gwynn, & Abreu, all of whom are lefty, and none of whom have the standing to command an everyday spot in the lineup. Assuming Don Mattingly doesn’t foolishly stick Van Slyke into a strictly lefties-only diet – and as he’s shown little of a platoon split in the minors, there seems to be no reason to – he’s likely to see a lot of playing time over the next few weeks until Rivera is ready to return.
Van Slyke has a history of starting slow at new levels, a reputation he’s been able to shake so far this year in Triple-A. With such a perfect opening for him in Los Angeles right now, with Sands struggling behind him, Silverio completely off the radar, injured or ineffective veterans ahead of him, and a window before the club considers trades or free agent signings, Van Slyke’s time is now. It’d do both him and the Dodgers well if he could take advantage of that.
Van Slyke was impressive in his debut, with a two-RBI double, a walk, a steal, and a laser of a throw from right field to third base. And of course, he had a memorable pinch-hit three-run homer to top the Cardinals on May 20. But that was really it; Don Mattingly didn’t seem to want to play him, allowing him just 6 starts and 33 PA before being sent back down on June 2. Van Slyke returned near the end of the month when Andre Ethier was slowed by an oblique strain and picked up 4 more starts & 15 plate appearances (with just two hits), then was optioned back to make room for the returning Matt Kemp & Ethier after the All-Star Break. Van Slyke was never seen again, not even in September.
It’s hard to say Van Slyke got a real shot, though oddly he did get to hit third, fourth, or fifth in six of his starts. (This says far more about the state of the team at the time than it does about him, of course.) Then again, it’s hard to say I ever really expected much out of him, because he’s not that young – he’ll be 27 next July – and 2012 was his eighth season in the minors. His good size and impressive raw power could allow him some big-league time as a bench bat, though I don’t expect much more than that; he’s most likely going to spend most or all of 2013 in Albuquerque.
Then again, once Carl Crawford returns, the Dodgers will have lefties at first base, left field, & right field, and so there’s an obvious need for a righty bat who can step in as needed for some platoon duty. With Sands gone, could Van Slyke be that player? I’m not sure if he can be; I’m also not sure, judging by the September snub, if he’ll even get the opportunity. The team apparently now sees him as strictly an outfielder, which doesn’t help his chances either.
Next up! We finally move on to the pitching staff with your friend & mine, Clayton Kershaw!