Outfield help on way for Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect Scott Van Slyke led the Southern League with a .348 average in 2011. (Tony Farlow/MiLB.com)

Right now, it’s cold where I live. There also are no good sports to watch on TV to help break up the winter doldrums.

Don’t try to sell the NBA to me because it really isn’t basketball. The NBA is just a bunch of guys breaking all the traditional rules of basketball (must dribble and not travel, no holding, grabbing, crotch-kicking, etc.) with a basketball occasionally in their hands.

College basketball is tolerable once March Madness arrives, but until then, I’m not interested in seeing amazing, undefeated Murray State lose to Tennessee State … really?

That’s why I’m so ready for the reporting of pitchers and catchers to sunny Arizona and Florida for the start of spring training! I can’t wait to watch MLB Network and read the box scores from Los Angeles Dodgers games to see how the upcoming season is shaping up.

We all know the Dodgers didn’t land Prince Fielder or any other big-name free agent. We also know Los Angeles isn’t completely rid of Frank (and Jamie) McCourt.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re not ready to hear the crack of the bat and the thud of the glove at Camelback-Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.

Left field is one of the biggest question marks for the Dodgers in 2012. Are we finally going to get some stability in the corner spot in the Chavez Ravine outfield this season? While we’re hearing the discussions about who might revolve through the left field door — Juan Rivera, Jerry Sands, Tony Gwynn — there are some prospects who might soon stake claim to that spot.

The outfield future is bright for the Dodgers in the form of three players: Scott Van Slyke, Joc Pederson and James Baldwin III.

If we were playing the name game, Pederson would lose out in this trio. Van Slyke is the son of Andy, who played 13 seasons in the majors, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Baldwin is the son of James Jr., who won 79 games in his 11-year major-league career.

Pederson also has a father who wore a major-league uniform, albeit not for long. Stu Pederson played four games for the Dodgers in 1985, going hitless in four plate appearances. Fortunately for Joc, a successful MLB father isn’t a prerequisite for a bright baseball future.

Why are these three outfield prospects being discussed? Here’s why:

Scott Van Slyke: Although you might call him a late bloomer, Van Slyke finally appears ready to follow his father to the major leagues. Van Slyke, who will turn 26 in July, was the Dodgers’ minor-league position player of the year in 2011.

Van Slyke, 6-foot-5, posted impressive numbers at double-A Chattanooga in 2011 by hitting .348 with 20 homers and 92 RBIs. Van Slyke’s numbers have been solid since 2009 after struggling the first four years of his minor-league career.

In 2009, Van Slyke hit 23 homers and drove in 100 runs with two teams. In 2010, he hit 14 homers and drove in 69 runs playing with three teams. Van Slyke probably will start the 2012 season at triple-A. But if he keeps up his current pace, look for him to make an appearance in Los Angeles in 2012.

Joc Pederson: A native Californian, Pederson appears to be on the fast-track to Los Angeles. In 68 games in his first year of professional baseball at Ogden, Pederson impressed with 11 homers, 64 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and a .353 average.

Pederson, 19, wasn’t drafted until the 11th round in 2010, but that was only because he told teams it would take a seven-figure bonus to acquire his services. The Dodgers took their chances and signed Pederson for a $600,000 bonus. Now it appears that investment was worth it. Pederson is ranked by Major League Baseball as the No. 4 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization.

ESPN baseball expert Keith Law listed Pederson on his “Sleeper Prospects for 2012” list. Law told www.minorleaguebaseball.com Pederson “has gotten significantly stronger since high school and projects to hit for average and power between his excellent bat speed and sound swing. He’s fast enough for center, but the bat should profile in a corner if he has to move.”

James Baldwin III: Baldwin has all the tools to be a solid outfielder for the Dodgers, but the 20-year-old needs to cut down on his strikeouts. In 2011 as an Ogden teammate of Pederson’s, Baldwin struck out 74 times in 196 plate appearances. That was a big part of his mediocre .250 batting average.

On the plus side for, he did hit 10 homers at Odgen and stole 22 bases. Baldwin, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, is ranked by MLB as the 10th-best prospect for the Dodgers.

Related Articles

Back to top button