Scott Van Slyke headed to Winter Ball trying to prove his 2012 season at Triple-A in the Dodgers organization was no fluke. After the way he has started over in the Dominican, maybe his 2012 performance may have been understating his ability. On Tuesday, Van Slyke delivered one of the best performances across baseball this year, going 4 for 5 with 3 home runs for the Tiburones de La Guaira in their 8-6 win over the Tigres de Aragua. Van Slyke got the Tiburones on the board with his first homer, a solo shot off of ex-big leaguer Esteban Yan, then gave La Guaira the lead with his second homer, another solo blast, this one off of Phillies prospect Leonel Bastidas. But that was nothing compared to Van Slyke’s final act as he capped off his incredible day with a walk-off 2-run home run off of Yohan Pino to nail down the La Guaira win. And although Van Slyke hasn’t exactly hit 3 home runs in every game for the Tiburones, he has gotten off to a scorching start, posting a .308/.379/.750 line with 2 doubles, 7 home runs, 13 RBI, and 10 walks versus 6 strikeouts in 14 games. His .750 slugging percentage is tops in the Dominican Winter League minimum 50 at-bats and his 7 home runs rank second to his La Guaira teammate Darin Ruf. It’s only a few games, but Van Slyke is feeling it right now and he hopes he can keep it up.
Van Slyke, 26, has the baseball bloodlines, being the son of 3-time All-Star Andy Van Slyke, but he’s a completely different player than his father, who was 6’1″, 190, coming in at 6’5″, 250. Andy Van Slyke had six seasons of 20+ stolen bases including two 20-20 years. Scott Van Slyke has stolen 10 bases just once in 8 minor league seasons, but has a chance to hit for more power than his father did. Van Slyke has a .290/.360/.476 career line in the minor leagues including a .327/.404/.578 line with 34 doubles, 18 homers, 67 RBI, and 64 strikeouts against 46 walks in 95 games and 411 plate appearances at the Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate. Van Slyke also had two different stints in the big leagues for the Dodgers, managing just a .167/.195/.311 line in 27 games and 57 plate appearances. Van Slyke features big-time power from a relatively short stroke, but the questions with him have always been plate discipline and his age relative to the leagues in which he has played. But both at Triple-A and in the short sample so far in the Dominican Winter League, Van Slyke has been able to walk at an above-average rate while limiting the strikeouts. He’s been able to lay off tough breaking pitches and wait for pitches to drive, and his power has been as present as ever. Van Slyke hits a few too many balls weakly in the air and his patience may not be quite as good in the major leagues, but he has the ability to hit for 30-homer power in the big leagues while getting on base at a solid clip. One big problem with him, though, is his defense. Unlike his father, who was a solid defensive centerfielder, Van Slyke has struggled defensively both in the corner outfield spots and at first base, and he’s going to have to work hard at that moving forward- and hit quite a bit. But after the improvements he was able to make to his plate discipline, Van Slyke’s defense may be the next task he is able to accomplish. Van Slyke has a chance to be a solid big league regular and contribute in a bench role for the Dodgers next season. He has put all his effort towards maximizing his ability as a hitter and continues to prove that his strides are really. After his exhilarating performance in the minors this past season and at Winter Ball now, Van Slyke hopes he can deliver some of those type of moments in the big leagues in 2013.