Los Angeles Dodgers: 3 Prospects Breathing Down the Necks of Regulars
The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to sport the National League's best record at 42-27 entering today's series finale against the Oakland A's. However, the offense continues to be exposed as the team's Achilles' heel, especially during the prolonged absence of All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp, who continues to be out with a hamstring strain.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, one of the biggest failings of the Frank McCourt era was a lack of investment in the minor league system. As a result, Los Angeles does not have many high-ceiling position players in its minor league system that are ready to help the major league club.
Fortunately for the 2012 club, they haven't needed to rely heavily on minor league reinforcements at many positions, thanks to solid contributions from position players like Elian Herrera, A.J. Ellis, Scott Hairston, Jr., and recent acquisition Bobby Abreu. The rotation has also been solidified by the All-Star caliber season being had by Chris Capuano.
That said, here are a few players that could help the Dodgers out during the final few months of the season as they fight to maintain their season-long strangle hold on the National League West.
Scott Van Slyke, OF/1B
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Scott Van Slyke is a power-hitting prospect that could emerge as a regular in left field or first base by the end of the year, while also occasionally spelling Andre Ethier in right.
He struggled during a brief 17-game call-up earlier in the year, but the Dodgers were not expecting much from him at that time, other than to let him get his feet wet at the major league level. Van Slyke has hit very well at Triple-A Albuquerque this year, so the team has faith that his bat can help the major league club over the long haul.
Los Angeles entered the 2012 season with left field being one of their biggest question marks, and Van Slyke has surpassed fellow outfield prospect Jerry Sands as the Dodgers' best immediate answer for the major league roster.
James Loney has continued to disappoint at first base, despite a once promising career, and Juan Riveira has been unspectacular in filling in for him. This creates even more opportunity for Van Slyke to receive significant playing time and contribute to the lineup immediately once recalled.
Alex Castellanos, INF
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Like Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos is another Dodgers prospect who received a brief, two-week audition earlier this year while third baseman Juan Uribe was on the disabled list. He was sent back down to Triple-A on Monday to make room for Uribe once he was activated, but there are reasons to believe that his return to the minors may not last long.
Uribe hasn't exactly performed well while in the lineup this year, hitting only .240 with one home run and 12 RBI in 33 games played this year.
Elian Herrera has been a pleasant surprise while filling in at all three outfield positions, second base, and third base, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. has provided a spark at second base, neither one of them is considered to be a long-term answer at either infield spot.
The Dodgers may decide to give Castellanos an extended look later this summer if Uribe's struggles continue, and let Herrera and Hairston focus on performing in utility roles. Castellanos performed well enough at Albuquerque before his first call up to show that he has little left to prove at that level.
Nate Eovaldi, RHP
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Nate Eovaldi has performed well for the Dodgers while filling in as a starter for Ted Lilly, who's been on the disabled list since late May with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. While there's no definitive timetable for Lilly's return, it will create and interesting dilemma regarding Eovaldi.
Incumbent closer Javy Guerra lost the role to Kenley Jansen earlier in the year, but Jansen hasn't exactly been lights out in the role either. He's blown three saves in 14 chances and his performance there has been uneven at best. Although the Dodgers seem to be indicating that they see Eovaldi as a starter long-term, there has been some speculation that he could be moved to the bullpen, perhaps as the closer.
Such a move would allow Jansen to move back to his more natural role as a setup man, and add even more depth to a Dodgers bullpen that has struggled at times this season.