Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
There is a 28 year old player on the Dodgers who is batting .269/.353/.486 in the 508 plate appearances he’s been with the team. Somewhat shockingly, he was designated for assignment in the Winter of 2012 in order to make room for SKIP SCHUMAKER, him ever since then he is batting .284/.373/.510, good for a 150 wRC+. So basically, Scott Van Slyke has been one of the most productive bench players in baseball ever since he was designated for assignment, even if you include his abysmal start to his Dodger career.
This is a significant development for the Dodgers, because by the time Carl Crawford is ready to return to the team, he might be a just turned 34 year old (birthday is August 5th) OF with no defensive flexibility, who is perennially injured player that’s coming off of a torn oblique. Oh and by the way, he hasn’t walked 30 times in a season since he was worth 7.7 fWAR with the Rays back in 2010.
Van Slyke was obviously the hero for the amazing comeback victory against Steve Cishek in the opener of the Marlins series, but initially we thought of him as a platoon player. After all, that a career .519 slugging against opposite handed pitching demands playing time somewhere. So this is good! A platoon player that slugs like an all star against LHP is a true weapon to have, but as Van Slyke has continued to mature as a talent, something clicked and he suddenly learned how to hit same handed pitching. A 798 OPS in Dodger stadium playing nowadays approximately equates to a 125 wRC+. Regularly, a player who hits like an all star versus opposite handed pitching needs to be just average against same handed pitching, but having ~ to a .800 OPS begs the question, “why isn’t he starting?”
Normally he would be starting, but Crawford notoriously has one of the 3 worst contracts in the entire game, and due to his relative usefulness when he’s on the field (5.4 fWAR as a Dodger), there was no way that Van Slyke was going to get a chance unless Carl was traded (lol), or was significantly injured (hmm).
So there is no question that the outfielder with one of the more impressive beards in the game has a chance now. Contrary to popular belief, he was always better than Alex Guerrero, offensively, and is a far superior defender on the left side of the OF. His 4.5 fWAR since his designation suggests a well above average regular to a bonafide all star. And hey, skeptics might point to his .350 BABIP since 2013 as unsustainable, but ZIPS (which has normalized that particular metric down to .337) still sees him as a .270/.353/.463 talent. Mix this with above average defense and over 93 games projected over the rest of the season, Van Slyke is projected by ZIPS to be worth 2.0 fWAR for the rest of the season.
There will be decisions in the near future (Puig’s return) for the Dodgers to make, whether they want to start Ethier over Van Slyke against RHP, whether they want to trade SVS/ sell high on Ethier, whether they want to just straight platoon them. Regardless, it will be difficult. There is always the possibility that Daniel Brim of Dodgers Digest brought up on the twitter machine regarding a deal for front line pitching centered around Van Slyke instead of Julio Urias/ Corey Seager, but until any decision is made, Van Slyke really should be starting at this point. Taking this a step further, the sudden emergence of Van Slyke has really netted the Dodgers value. After what he was in the Winter of 2012, it really is an amazing boost for a team that didn’t really need it.