2013 stats: 53 games played, 129 at-bats, .240 average, seven home runs, eight doubles, 19 RBI.
Scott Van Slyke began the 2013 season in the minor leagues with the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. He was then called up to the Dodgers’ major league roster in early May when the team was shorthanded in the outfield due to injuries. Van Slyke remained with the Dodgers for one month before he was sent back down to the minors. The outfielder then spent the season being moved up and down until he rejoined the club in September and remained there for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.
The decision to send Van Slyke back down to the minors after his initial month with the Dodgers was a move based on roster numbers and not a result of his production. Playing in 14 games during the month of May, Van Slyke hit .275, .700 slugging, 1.026 OPS and four home runs to go along with 11 RBI. It was quite the coming out party for the left fielder, which he unfortunately couldn’t sustain and dealt with bouts of inconsistency. With eight fewer at-bats in June, Van Slyke’s batting average dropped to .188. He increased it to .267 in July and .313 in August, but dropped back down to .192 in September, which was around the time the Dodgers would need him most.
Due to an ankle injury, Matt Kemp was unavailable for the playoffs and Andre Ethier was hobbled and clearly not himself. Perhaps with the hope that Van Slyke could replicate his early success, manager Don Mattingly placed him on the NLDS roster, in favor of Jerry Hairston, Jr. Van Slyke also made the NLCS roster, but the outfielder barely recorded a blip on the postseason radar. He played in one NLDS game and one NLCS game, solely serving as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.
Through four games this spring, Van Slyke is struggling at the plate with a .167 batting average, recording just one hit in six plate appearances. To his credit, Van Slyke has drawn two walks and stolen one base.
2014 outlook: Van Slyke stands a good chance of being on the Dodgers roster come Opening Day. With several bench players from last year’s team playing elsewhere, Van Slyke is one of the few holdovers and could supply a big bat in pinch-hit situations. He had the opportunity to play in a respectable amount of games at the big league level in 2013 and that could be important with the uncertainty that currently surrounds the Dodgers outfield.
Mattingly stated on Saturday that Kemp is at step five of a seven step rehab process, but didn’t offer much else on the center fielder and Carl Crawford is known to be injury prone. Coupled with the game experience, Van Slyke’s ability to play both left and right field could give him an advantage over other outfielders who are also vying for a spot on the roster.
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