When Jayson Werth was with the Dodgers, he was a huge fan favorite. He would frequently interact with his entourage of season ticket holder fans out in the Left Field Pavilion – even while the games were in progress. Unfortunately for Werth (and ultimately the Dodgers), he could never stay healthy for a full season and the Dodgers declined to re-sign him after the 2006 season when he became a free agent. Werth signed with the Phillies where he followed the path of many other former Dodgers – he got good, real good. After spending four years with the Phillies to the tune of $12.55 million, Werth signed what was at the time the largest contract for an outfielder – a seven-year/$126 million deal with the Nationals that everyone shook their head at. Werth’s contract runs through the 2017 season and he is still owed $63 million after this season. Not bad for a career .274 hitter – at least not bad for Jayson Werth, that is.
Enter Scott Van Slyke.
Anyone who has spent any time around Van Slyke knows that is a great guy with an even greater sense of humor. He is extremely even-tempered and is well liked by his teammates, his coaches, his manager, the media and most of all the fans – and he’s also a pretty good baseball player. Oh sure, he’s no Yasiel Puig or Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford, but he also isn’t costing the Dodgers the $58.75 million owed to those four this year alone. Instead, Van Slyke is making only slightly more than the major league minimum at $508,000 to be the Dodgers fifth outfielder and occasional back-up first baseman, which he is perfectly content with – for now, that is.
“I know what I’m here for and I don’t mind it,” Van Slyke recently told ESPNLA’s Mark Saxon. “I like it. I’m not going to complain.”
Several weeks ago Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters that he plans to use the 27-year-old Ladue, Missouri native and son of former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke in match-up situations, especially against left-handers.
“He’s here really to punish left-handers,” said Mattingly. “Right now, that’s what he’s doing. That’s his job really, to hit left-handed pitching.”
And how is he doing against left-handers? After his two home runs and single on Monday night, Van Slyke is now hitting .302 against left-handers compared to .241 against right-handers, although he doesn’t see too many right-handers. On the season Van Slyke has appeared in 40 of the Dodgers 65 games and is hitting a combined .278 (20 for 72). But what really jumps out at you is his excellent .435 on-base percentage and his .625 slugging percentage for an outstanding 1.060 OPS. Why the high OBP? Well, in addition to his five doubles, one triple and six home runs (all against lefties), he has walked 18 times (fifth-most on the team) and has been hit twice.
Van Slyke was drafted by the Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2005 First Year Player Draft and after spending the better part of nine seasons in the minor leagues he made his MLB debut on May 9, 2012 at 25 years old. He will be arbitration-eligible in 2016 and eligible for free agency in 2020 – if he is still a Dodger by then, which bring us to the point.
With the Dodgers already shuffling around four very highly paid outfielders, and with arguably the best outfield prospect in all of baseball waiting in the wings at Triple-A Albuquerque, it is highly unlikely that Van Slyke will ever be an everyday outfielder with the Dodgers. And even though Van Slyke is under team control for five years, he will, in all likelihood, end up being traded. And while this may be upsetting for Dodgers fans, it is undoubtedly the only way that Van Slyke will ever have an opportunity to become an everyday outfielder in the big leagues – much like Jayson Werth back in 2006.