Scott Van Slyke
Like many others in his situation, Scott Van Slyke has been operating under two distinctly obstacles. He is the son of Andy Van Slyke, who had 13 superb years with the Cardinals, Pirates, Orioles and Phillies. Secondly, he signed at age 18 and that coupled with his name, made expectations very steep after in his third and fourth seasons.
He met those expectations in 2009 and jumped into the #12 spot on our top 40 prospects.
When he failed to shoot out the lights at Inland Empire in 2008, his fourth professional season, many dismissed him as a prospect, when in fact he was only 21 and would have been a rookie had he attended college.
After his breakout 2009 season at Inland Empire and a brief cup of coffee in Albuquerque, he has effectively stilled the nay-sayers.
The young man was selected too the California League post-seson All-Star Team and became the first player in San Bernardino professional baseball history to collect at least 40 doubles (he had 42), 20 home runs (he had 23) and 100 runs batted in.
He is also only the third player in club history to reach the 40-double mark, setting a team record with his 42nd two-bagger, which was fourth in the league. He also was second in the league with a remarkable 18 outfield assists, one behind the eventual leader.
He got a three-game promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque when the season ended and collected his first hit at that level.
Before the youngster was selected by the Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2005 draft, most clubs believed that Van Slyke wasn't quite ready for pro ball and that he would accept the scholarship he had from the University of Mississippi to play for them.
But when he was still available in the 14th round, the Dodgers gobbled him up. Like the others, they felt he was headed to Old Miss and that physically he just wasn't quite ready.
They also knew that three years in college would probably boost him into a first or second-round spot in the draft and they probably wouldn't get a shot at him again so they came up with an offer that he couldn't refuse.
He has room on his 6-5 frame for muscle; he's very athletic (having starred in both football and basketball in high school) and he was named the Missouri High School Player of the Year. The feeling now is that they have gotten much more than they had hoped for but the progress, as they had expected, was a slow, steady one.
He had the knowledge that he'd gained by being around the game all his life where his father was excelling, and understood the difficulty of it all. He grew up in a household where everyone around him discussed -- and dissected -- the game.
He knew how hard he had to work and how good he had to be to reach the big leagues. No one knows better than he does that baseball's minor leagues function like a pass-fail trade school.
A player is selected in the draft, reports to rookie ball and starts climbing the ladder. If he's good enough, he'll earn promotions. If he's not good enough, he'll be traded or released. The low wages, long bus trips and constant evaluation by club officials weed out those who lack ability or dedication.
"It's a game of percentages," said Scott, in 2008 after he batted .148 with no home runs and seven RBIs in 22 games with Great Lakes and .261 with five homers and 26 runs batted in at Inland Empire. "And there's a rollover factor. When the year ends, there's always a new draft next year, and 30 more kids are going to come in."
During his first year the Dodgers worked on shortening his stroke and opening his front side more to generate more bat speed. In the field, his arm is certainly above average.
The Van Slyke's both appreciated the uniqueness of the two years at Great Lakes in which Andy could drive two hours and watch Scott play. If the Tigers are off and the Loons are home Andy makes the trip, and father and son bond over a bucket of baseballs in the batting cage. The instruction is intensive, and Scott prefers it that way.
While watching him Andy told the Detroit Free Press, "It's learning to perform under pressure. Do you embrace it? Do you fear it? Are you going up there with the bases loaded, licking your chops?
"You can have the most perfect swing, but if you're not licking your chops, it's irrelevant. You have to want to be at the plate in that situation. And you'd better not be looking to the on-deck circle."
Andy Van Slyke shares his assessments freely. He is candid but not critical. He praises when appropriate, but he will not make excuses for unsatisfactory results -- whether he's talking about one of the Tigers or his son.
When asked, for example, about Scott's pregame session in the batting cage, Andy said, "For 10 swings, he looked like a big-league hitter. For 30, you could tell he's in A-ball."
In evaluating Scott's offensive approach, he said: "You can't be 6-feet-5 and be a singles hitter. That's just the way it is ... He's got to hit a bunch of balls over and to the wall.
"I probably do overload him, to be honest with you, while I'm here," Van Slyke said, as he reflected on his visits to Midland. Then he added: "It's like a lot of information in life. You keep what's useful and spit out the rest."
He paused. "Hopefully, he's wise enough to use all of it."
Scott did just that the second half of the season at High-A Inland Empire in the California League in 2008. Over 48 games he collected 46 hits and 26 runs batted in. Although he hit only .261, it was apparent that all the hard work was beginning to pay off.
He opened the 2009 season, again at Inland Empire, and tore up the California League during the week of April 20-26. Over that time span, he led the league in hitting (.522), on-base percentage (.581), and extra-base hits (8). It was a big turnaround for the young outfielder, who was 6-for-31 with 3 RBI and 14 strikeouts prior to his sizzling week.
Obviously, no one could sustain that sort of streak but in every offensive department: batting .293 with a .375 on-base percentage and a .903 on-base plus slugging, playing in 132 games over 496 times at bat and scoring 75 runs, with 146 hits, 42 doubles, 4 triples 23 home runs, 100 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases, he set personal highs.
He was the lone 66ers representative on the post-season all-star team, which was selected by the league’s coaching staffs and broadcasters.
Scott has the size and temperament to become an outstanding player. And at 23 in 2010, he still has plenty of time. He will probably start the season at Chattanooga.
OF SCOTT VAN SLYKE
6-5 195 BR TR
Born-July 24, 1986, Chesterfield, Missouri
Selected in 14th round in 2005 draft
year team ave obp ops gm ab r h 2b 3b hr bi sb
2005 GCLeag .262 .330 .753 24 85 15 24 4 1 2 15 4
2006 Ogden .256 .320 .672 45 156 18 40 5 2 2 17 5
2007 GLakes .254 .310 .638 104 351 38 89 18 1 2 35 4
2008 GLakes .148 .280 .668 22 61 4 9 4 0 0 7 0
IEmp .261 .309 .729 48 176 29 46 9 2 5 26 7
2009 Albuq .167 .375 .755 3 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
IEmp .294 .373 .907 132 496 76 146 42 4 23 100 10
Totals .267 .335 .755 378 1331 180 355 82 1 34 200 30