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Who’s Behind Matt Kemp?

Posted By Eno Sarris On May 15, 2012 @ 12:27 pm In Injuries,Outfielders | 2 Comments

A Stud with a capital ‘S’ went down in many outfields this week when the Dodgers decided that Matt Kemp and his balky hamstring needed at least two weeks to mend. Since deep leaguers often need to pick up the team’s actual replacement — anybody else with power and speed is already owned — let’s see if the Dodgers themselves will produce a fantasy-worthy replacement.

Literally, in center field, it’s probably Tony Gwynn, Jr. that will get the reps. If speed is your need, he could replace Kemp’s stolen bases in the short term, but there’s no sign that he’ll do much more than hit .260 with 40ish stolen base pace. Despite a nice swinging strike rate (5.9% this year, 5.1% career), we know that he’ll strike out too much (15.7% this year, 15.9% career) and lacks the power (.081 ISO this year, .077 career) to put up a nice batting average. Then again, he’s walking more (8.6%, up from 6.8% last year), and it’s in line with his career work in the rate (9.3%), and that will at least give him more chances to steal bags. With the Dodgers functioning as a Green Light Organization, his help in that category is a known known.

But there’s still playing time to be had. So far, most of Gwynn’s work has come in left field. Moving him to center opens up playing time for the newly acquired Bobby Abreu, who could hit .260 with a stolen base and a home run while Kemp was out, if that’s what you wanted. But there’s at least an outside chance that Scott Van Slyke gets the playing time — at least against lefties. Then again, his only start so far came against righty Alex White.

What happens if the Dodgers hand the interim role to the son of Andy Van Slyke? It’s actually a fairly exciting prospect, even if he’s not a really exciting prospect — Marc Hulet didn’t even put him in the Dodgers’ top 15 this year. Mostly that’s because Slyke took a long time to get to the high minors, and the first time he really had a good year at Double-A or above was in 2011, when he hit .348/.427/.595 in the Southern League… at 24 years old. Still, he wasn’t a man among boys (the average age in that league was 24.4 last year), and the Southern League is no Pacific Coast League. His peripherals look decent, and though his major league strikeout rate is an unknown, at least he’s coming in with fewer whiffs than Jerry Sands. If he got the playing time, he could be more of a boon in power stats, might be able to manage a good batting average, and would steal a few bags.

And, yes, Jerry Sands is on the team. As a righty, though, he’s in direct competition with Van Slyke. He’s proven himself to have a contact issue, his power didn’t translate in a third-of-a-season sample last year, and he was hitting .241/.333/.403 in Albuquerque of the PCL this year. He’s a year younger, but the Dodgers are most likely in “What have you done for me lately” mode. And Van Slyke is the guy that has actually played since Matt Kemp went down.

With the Dodgers in first, it might just be a straight Abreu/Van Slyke platoon based on handedness. That seems safe with a little bit of upside. The only wrinkle is that Van Slyke has already seen a righty, which makes him the upside play for the next couple of weeks.


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