Our next season review will have us reviewing outfielder/pinch-hitter/occasional first baseman Scott Van Slyke. Scotty is the son of former center fielder Andy Van Slyke. The Dodgers drafted Van Slyke in the 14th round of the 2005 amateur draft. It took Scott a while to make it to the big leagues, not making his debut until the 2012 season.
The Dodgers had high hopes for Van Slyke, and considering he put up pretty good numbers in the minors, (.295 career hitter, with 98 home runs), it seemed only a matter of time before Van Slyke was promoted to the major leagues and took advantage of his potential. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as the Dodgers and Scott planned. Van Slyke struggled in 2012, and despite a clutch game winning home run on Sunday night Baseball against the Cardinals early in that season, he didn’t do much else. Van Slyke batted just .167 (9 for 54) with two home runs.
His disappointing season dropped him low on the Dodger’s depth chart. We didn’t expect much from him coming into the 2013 season, but after impressing in spring training, the Dodgers placed him on the roster as a bench bat and backup outfielder/first baseman. He merely went from being very very bad in 2012, to being just slightly bad in 2013.
Van Slyke’s strength lies in his power. Van Slyke has hit nine MLB career home runs, seven of them in 2013. He certainly doesn’t get enough playing time to have much of a chance to improve his batting skills, but 2013 did see an overall increase in his OBP. Van Slyke posted a triple slash line of .240/.342/.465 (31 for 129) with seven home runs, and 19 runs driven in. The .342 OBP is due to his improved patience at the plate. Van Slyke walked 20 times in 2013, and whiffed just 37 which explains some of the improvement in his on-base skills. 20 walks in 152 plate appearances may not seem like a lot, but considering he walked just twice in 54 at-bats last season is pretty a huge increase. Van Slyke belted six home runs in the first three months of the season, but hit only one in the final three months of the season.
Van Slyke’s defense isn’t much, if anything at all. That doesn’t say much for a guy who doesn’t see a whole lot of time in the field either. However Van Slyke may not have been as bad as everyone thought with the glove in 2013. The 27-year-old right handed hitter split time between right field, left field, and first base. He played 30 games in left field, 13 games in right, and 4 at first base. The defensive metrics tell us that Van Slyke was a little bit better in right field than he was in left field, but overall a below average outfielder. Van Slyke posted a -3 defensive rating in left, and a +2 rating in right field. Overall he was a couple of runs better in right field, but cost the Dodgers a run overall in the outfield. In his brief time at first base he posted a +1 rating. In the outfield he put up a .968 fielding percentage and made two errors. Perhaps he would have seen more time in the outfield with all of the other injuries, but a shin/leg injury of his own sidelined him early on in the season.
2013 season highlights
Being a part-time player, Van Slyke didn’t have the opportunities to make many highlights, but he did have a couple during 2013. On September 12th, Van Slyke blasted a pinch-hit two-run walk-off home run to defeat the Giants at Dodger Stadium. He also had a two home run game in Atlanta back in May.
2013 postseason batting
Not much here. Van Slyke only appeared in two playoff games, and I don’t think he had an at-bat. Hilariously he did play one inning in center field during the NLCS. The ball was not hit to him, so he did not get a chance to make a play.
2013 NLCS national anthem standoff
Immediately before game 6 of the 2013 NLCS Van Slyke had a standoff war with Cardinal’s pitcher Joe Kelly. The two men stood with their hands over their hearts and hats removed for what seemed like days after the National Anthem had been sung. Both men frozen in place in a heated battle of who could stand the longest. (With Van Slyke standing a few feet in front of the Dodger dugout) Eventually, Van Slyke won, as Kelly retreated back into the Cardinal dugout.
2013 contract status
Van Slyke is still under team control and is not eligible for arbitration until the 2016 season. Van Slyke made the MLB minimum in 2013, and I expect for him to make the same on another team controlled contract in 2014.
Van Slyke went from a career minor leaguer, to being highly touted with promise, to falling off the depth chart last season, to making a comeback and claim a spot on the Dodger’s bench for most of the 2013 season. That’s about what his ceiling is now. Despite Van Slyke’s struggles, he still became somewhat of a fan favorite, sporting his trademarked mustache. Van Slyke’s numbers may be small sample size, and he may never live up to his potential as a starting outfielder, but he’s become a key member of the Dodger’s bench and the go-to lefty pinch-hit bench masher that the team sorely needed down the stretch. I expect for the mustached slugger to continue in that bench/part-time role for next season. It may not seem like much, but a lefty pinch-hit power bat off the bench can be valuable to any team. His father would be proud of how far he has come.