Chattanooga Lookouts right fielder Scott Van Slyke insists he's not glancing down the road in terms of his developmental process.
That's a good thing, because Andre Ethier poses quite the roadblock.
Ethier is the right fielder for the parent Los Angeles Dodgers and isn't going away any time soon after signing a two-year extension in January that resulted in a $500,000 bonus, a $5.5 million salary this season and a $9.25 million salary in 2011. He has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 19 with a broken finger but before that was leading the National League in batting average (.392) and RBIs (38) and was tied for the lead in home runs (11).
"He is playing well and has become one of the greatest hitters in baseball today," Van Slyke said.
Van Slyke has the same cannon arm possessed by father, former St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andy Van Slyke, and hit .294 with 23 homers and 100 RBIs last season at Inland Empire in the high Single-A California League. He was a .300 hitter for the Lookouts through most of April but began the current series in Jacksonville hitting .257 with two homers and 17 RBIs.
Lookouts manager Carlos Subero and hitting coach John Valentin believe the 23-year-old Van Slyke must focus on improvement from within while blocking out who's ahead of him in the organization.
"You really can't look at it like that," Valentin said. "You've got to play hard, and when you're ready somebody will call, whether it's your club or one of the 29 other clubs out there. Teams are looking for players all the time, so you've just got to go about your business and play well. If you're not going to take Ethier's spot, I'm sure there is a right-field spot somewhere else."
Said Subero: "We know they all can't make it with the Dodgers, but they've just got to keep doing the best they can at their level."
Either, 28, was the Double-A Texas League MVP in 2005 and was acquired by Los Angeles that December in a trade with Oakland that sent Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez to the A's. He averaged hitting .291 in his first four seasons with the Dodgers and last year set career bests in doubles (42), homers (31) and RBIs (106).
In last year's National League MVP balloting, Ethier finished sixth.
Van Slyke would seem to have two paths to the majors should he continue to progress -- getting plucked by another organization or playing another position. He has played left field and center field in the past but has spent all but a handful of innings this season in right.
"I've just got to play like I'm trying to get up to the big leagues in right field for the Dodgers, but I also understand there are other teams out there," Van Slyke said. "Obviously, I'd love to play for the Dodgers. I'm in the Dodger organization, and my dream is to play for the Dodgers.
"I'm just trying to play well. I'm not thinking about Andre Ethier right now."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...