After taking a look at some of the outfield scenarios Scott wrote about which could take place this Spring, I became increasingly interested in the possibility that offseason pick up Chris Heisey could win a spot on the team and could even displace Scott Van Slyke.
Even though Scott Van Slyke hit the first homerun to open the 2014 season in Sydney, Australia, dominated starting contests, took our breath away with his fantastic beard and generally provided a great option off the bench for the Dodgers last season, and smashed left handed pitching, the new front office brigade would feel no qualms about cutting him should they need to open a space for someone else.
Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi value defense. Let’s be honest, Scott Van Slyke is not the slickest outfielder out there. Sure, he has played a few games in center field, but even Andre Ethier is more versatile defensively than the big right handed hitting Van Slyke. Van Slyke was in center field in parts of 21 games last season, and I’m even surprised to look back and see it was that many times. Even though SVS has only committed 4 career errors from the outfield, his lack of speed and range may cost him a spot on the team should Chris Heisey impress this Spring.
Scott Van Slyke does bring a power bat off the bench, and the Dodgers are needing to squeak out power from the lineup any way they can after losing the bats of Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez this winter. Yet I have the feeling that the defensive strengths of Darwin Barney and Chris Heisey may mean Scott Van Slyke doesn’t find a spot on the Dodgers bench. Justin Turner is most definitely a lock for a utility role and bench spot after putting up impressive offensive numbers last season after making the team as a non-roster invite.
Scott Van Slyke excels at hitting against left-handers, and he put up a slash line of .315/.415/.630 against left handed pitching last season. He led the Dodgers against left-handers in homeruns, doubles, OBP, SLG and OPS. His ability to his left-handed pitching is a valuable asset for the Dodgers and shouldn’t be overlooked even though his defense is lacking.
Van Slyke also hit the Dodgers only pinch-hit homerun last season. Van Slyke can also play first base, and Don Mattingly should give Adrian Gonzalez some days off sprinkled throughout the season. Justin Turner could also play first base if needed.
Get this. Chris Heisey hit 4 pinch-hit homeruns last season for the Cincinnati Reds. Yasmani Grandal even hit 2 pinch-hit homeruns for the Padres last season as well. Heisey was tied with Justin Turner along with Jeff Baker with 12 pinch-hit homeruns. Suddenly, Van Slyke becomes expendable should the Dodgers go with Heisey.
Of course this argument could become mute should any Spring Training injuries pop up. Carl Crawford is bound to be DL’d at some point during the season. It’s just a matter of when. Crawford played in 105 games for the Dodgers last season.
With Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier essentially locks for outfield spots, the final slot will go to Heisey or Van Slyke. I don’t see the Dodgers going with only Justin Turner as an infield reserve player. Darwin Barney will most likely be on the bench alongside Turner.
Call to the Pen
The Dodgers traded Matt Magill to the Reds in exchange for Heisey for a reason. The Dodgers will be paying Heisey $2.16 million in 2015, and I don’t see them playing him in triple-A instead of on the big club where he can provide both defensive versatility and coverage in the outfield as well as some pop off the bench.
Chris Heisey was penciled in batting ninth and starting in right field for the Dodgers during their Cactus League opener on Wednesday versus the White Sox. Amusingly, Heisey had already bobbled a ball in left field in the third inning. It’s going to be a long Spring.
Could Scott Van Slyke be usurped by Chris Heisey come Opening Day? If the trend toward defensive value continues for the new front office, then yes Heisey will be a Dodger in 2015.