Carl Crawford entered 2013 as an afterthought in the minds of most baseball fans. He was coming off of an injury-plagued and unproductive stint with the Boston Red Sox before becoming a salary dump as he headed to the West Coast in the monster Adrian Gonzalez deal.
Once an ultra-elite defensive left fielder who had great speed and baserunning acumen — stealing 50 or more bases five times and posting five seasons in excess of ~4.5 WAR — the Dodgers were hoping to just get a healthy and solid Crawford after he was unable to play for the club following that massive late-2012 deal.
Carl dealt with multiple injuries once again, playing in just 116 games and netting 469 plate appearances. However, Carl got his walk rate back up to a modest 6% while cutting back on the strikeouts, which really hurt him during his short time in Beantown. He also swiped 15 bags in 19 attempts and ranked in the top ten in the NL in percentage of extra bases taken at an excellent 60%.
Carl’s never been a tremendous hitter, and his slash line normalized to around his career mark this season as he hit .283/.329/.407/.736. The big difference was a drop in SLG% of 32 points and 12 points of wOBA. The slugging percentage can likely be attributed to Carl’s continued recovery from Tommy John surgery and the fact that he was never a great power hitter to begin with, so aging isn’t going to help that any.
Heading into 2014 with four years and $82.5 million remaining on his contract, Crawford is a candidate to be dealt if the Dodgers can find a willing partner. They’d have to eat a large portion of the contract, but it would help to alleviate the massive logjam in the Blue Crew outfield. That said, if Carl remains and continues to man left field on a regular basis, he can still be a solid player, as 2013 saw him save 5.5 runs with the leather, contribute positively on the bases, and have a solid offensive campaign (108 wRC+) en route to a roughly ~3 WAR year.
Scott Van Slyke got the Blake DeWitt treatment in 2013, racking up hundreds of frequent flyer miles as he moved between The Show and Triple-A Albuquerque about one billion times.
SVS started 24 games in left field, and DRS and UZR both approved of his short time in place of Crawford (3.0 and 1.4 runs saved, respectively). Of course, Van Slyke wasn’t out there to be a slick-fielding, fu-manchu-wearing man. He was in the lineup to hit for power, particularly against southpaws.
Scott hit just .200/.333/.347/.680 while playing in left but .240/.342/.465/.807 overall with a .353 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in 152 plate appearances. He got on-base at the same clip against righties and lefties (.342), but oddly enough had a reverse platoon split in regards to SLG% (.422 against lefties and .508 against right-handers).
Nevertheless, he’s always killed lefty pitching in the minors a bit more than righties. In fact, he made the postseason roster for that purpose alone. However, you never would have known he was on the roster had he not had that memorable National Anthem standoff with St. Louis Cardinals‘ pitcher Joe Kelly.
Don Mattingly consistently and mind-numbingly passed over SVS for Michael Young in the postseason, as Scott accumulated a grand total of ZERO plate appearances as the Dodgers pushed towards a World Series berth. Whether you believed in his minor-league power against lefties or the small sample-size reverse platoon splits during 2013, this was an indefensible move.
Heading into 2014, Van Slyke should without a doubt have a firm place on the 25-man roster as a reserve outfielder/first baseman and right-handed power bat off of the bench. Scott is still pre-arbitration eligible, so he’ll be back on another cheap contract. The Dodgers have gone without a true power bat consistently being available on the bench for some time, and with Scott on a cheap contract and having positional versatility at three of the corners, he’s the perfect guy to help round out the roster.
If you can’t find a bench spot for a .342 OBP/.465 SLG/.353 wOBA/129 wRC+ guy who’s only 27 years old and on a very team-friendly deal, then you should probably reevaluate your roster construction methods.
Elian Herrera started two games in left field in 2013.