Thursday, May 30, 2013
With Kemp out, it's Van Slyke's time to shine
The Dodgers not only lost to the Angels 4-3 on Wednesday night, but they may have lost Matt Kemp to a hamstring injury once again. This is the same hamstring that caused him to miss two months last year, and all but derail what was an MVP-like start to 2012. He claims it's not as severe, but that remains to be seen.
What should be clear is this: Scott Van Slyke has a golden opportunity to show the world what he can do at the plate.
On a team devoid of power hitting, Van Slyke is already tied with Andre Ethier for third on the team with four homers. Here's another interesting stat - its taken Van Slyke 135 less at-bats to do so. In fact, of his nine hits, four are doubles and four are homers. That's a welcome sight on this team.
Last night he homered off of Angels' closer Ernesto Frieri with two outs in the ninth to pull the Dodgers within one. Frieri isn't the most dominating closer in baseball, but he still is a darn good one with 11 saves. For a young guy like Van Slyke to step up and deliver in that situation is impressive and cannot be ignored.
The logjam of outfielders that the Dodgers had to start the season wasn't going to make things easy for anyone to crack. But, Carl Crawford is not quite an everyday player yet, Kemp has been struggling mightily and is now hurt, and Ethier has been just plain awful. While people are very anxious to see Yasiel Puig, and rightfully so, let's appreciate what we have in Van Slyke right now.
If Kemp does miss extended time, then Van Slyke needs to be pencilled in the lineup each game without question. On this team, he's a legit cleanup hitter who is only getting better. I do not want to see Ethier's name listed above his. Ethier is down to .253 and slugging .393. Van Slyke is at .290 and .806. Yes, it's a much smaller sample size, but anyone who watches the games can clearly see whose bat has more pop. It's not even close.
Whether Kemp misses a few games or is placed on the DL, now is the time for Van Slyke to strut his stuff. He'll be getting some help, as Hanley Ramirez appears ready to come off the DL in the next few days. We can only HOPE he's healthy, and a trio of Adrian Gonzalez, Van Slyke, and Ramirez in the heart of the order looks pretty good.
No disrespect to Kemp, but if he does miss extended time, then it can only be viewed as a good thing. It'll be good for Kemp to get away, rest up, and hopefully put the lousy start to the year behind him and return a better player. Van Slyke will be able to see regular at-bats in his absence, and that helps the Dodgers' offense tremendously.
So do yourself a favor, Don Mattingly, and write Van Slyke's name on your lineup card with a permanent marker! Keep him in, let him hit, and don't look back.