As exciting as it's been to see Javy Guerra, Rubby De La Rosa, Josh Lindblom and Nathan Eovaldi trip from Double-A to the majors, the missing passenger on that ride for the 2011 Dodgers has been a minor leaguer who can actually hit.
How's this: The No. 1 active hitter in the Double-A Southern League is Dodger prospect Scott Van Slyke.
The only guy atop Van Slyke in OPS in the Southern is Paul Goldschmidt, who was called up by Arizona and now has a .353 on-base percentage and .596 slugging percentage for the Diamondbacks in his first 15 games. In Double-A, Goldschmidt was at .435 and .626.
Van Slyke, who turned 25 last month, now sits at .422 and .570 while splitting time between first base and the outfield, positions where the Dodgers look thin next year even if Jerry Sands comes through. Van Slyke has 42 doubles in 405 at-bats to go with 14 home runs, and 57 walks against 87 strikeouts.
Of late, he has accomplished the pretty feat of having two hits, three hits, four hits and five hits in his past four games, capped by a 5-for-7 performance in Thursday's 12-11 extra-inning loss.
Van Slyke had a .907 OPS with High-A Inland Empire in 2009, then struggled a bit when he moved up to Double-A in 2010. But he has more than adjusted. He's on the old side for his level, so we're not looking at a future Hall of Famer, but we should at least be looking.
When I started wondering about 2012 back in May, I mentioned Van Slyke, thanks in part to his hot start but more so to the fact that I needed bodies to fill out my 2012 lineup. In other words, it wasn't exactly with a strong belief that he would or even could actually start next year.
However, with Trayvon Robinson off to Seattle, and the Dodgers possibly having as little to spend in the offseason as they've had in years, Van Slyke probably needs to be taken more seriously. After all, his .992 OPS in the tougher hitting environment of Double-A is higher than Sands' .907 OPS in cozy Triple-A, and he has a better walk-strikeout ratio as well. (He's also better in the latter category than the otherwise hot-hitting Alex Castellanos, who came to the Dodgers in the Rafael Furcal deal and now has a .972 OPS in 2011).
Here's the starting lineup the Dodgers will arguably take into the offseason, before any free agents (their own or from other teams) are signed or any trades are made:
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, 1B
Justin Sellers, 2B
Dee Gordon, SS
Juan Uribe, 3B
Jerry Sands, LF
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Little has been said about Van Slyke as a prospect, but he hardly looks like the weakest hitter in that group. Even if he struggles at the outset of his major-league career, he might be worth investing some hope in.