Greetings Lasorda’s Lairians! Yes I am alive and well and back from my 2 month hiatus. Writing about the Dodgers nearly every day, plus starting a “real” job took it’s toll on me, but Scott and Stacy have done a great job running the show and I’m excited to be back talking Dodger Blue.The “hot stove” was disappointing again for the Dodgers this off-season, unless you like overpaying under-productive, backloaded, multi-year contracts to old players clearly past their prime, but that is a story for another day. Today let’s talk about one of the Dodgers few young, legitimate hitting prospects who seemingly blossomed right in front of our eyes last September, only to be blocked by Ned Colletti’s curious aforementioned signings this off-season, Jerry Sands.
Sands had a roller-coaster 2011 season. He nearly won a job during spring training, but alas he couldn’t quite beat out the mighty Marcus Thames/Tony Gwynn Jr. platoon. He then destroyed AAA pitching and was shockingly promoted early in the season. Only to be sent back to the bench so the Jay Gibbons experiment could be given another chance and ultimately sent back down to AAA.
During his initial stint with the big club he hit only .200 but when he came back up in September, and was finally given the chance to play everyday, he finished strong, raising his average to .253 and finishing 5th on the club with 15 doubles. He showed a propensity to hit the ball the right field, something most pull happy young players don’t do, and was also willing to take a walk. Yes he struck out in %25 of his ab-bats’s but he also took Tim Lincecum deep, helping Clayton Kershaw earn his 20th win of the season.
Defensively he was also better than advertised, finishing 3rd on the team with 6 outfield assists, while Juan Rivera in almost as many games had just 1. He showed he could effectively man LF and RF and also play a solid 1B, but clearly his best fit is LF. Ned Colletti teased Dodgers fans at the end of the season when he hinted that the team may have off-season payroll flexibility because Sands and Gordon had shown they could play everyday in the big leagues. Then Ned did what he always does and signed aging vets to block the young talent at every position.
Sands 2011 wasn’t quite complete as he headed to the Dominican Winter League, and rumors abounded that it was to hone his craft at third base. But that was much ado about nothing as Sands played just 20 games, all in the OF, hitting .250 with 3 HR and12 RBI.
Heading into spring training Sands remarkably isn’t even assured of a roster spot, he will once again have to outperform the vets who are getting paid much more than he is. He will do this and his reward will likely be a ticket to AAA, so he can put up slow pitch softball like numbers playing in the altitude of Albuquerque, while Juan Rivera mans left-field for the Dodgers. Honestly you don’t think Colletti gave Rivera $4 million dollars to not play everyday do you?
But there is one hope for young Jerry. The Dodgers must be sold by April 30th, meaning we’ll as fans have to only suffer through a month of the Rivera/Gwynn OF platoon. A new owner will come in, finally promote the long overdue Logan White to GM, and the mandate will come down that it’s time to play the young kids. After all, does anyone expect Rivera to put up the #’s he did at the end of 2011 again this year? Even if he does it’s hard to envision a full season of Sands not being more productive than a full season of Rivera anyway.
But we can always hope that Sands has such a solid spring that he forces the Dodgers to play him everyday, making Rivera a lefty hitting specialist as Ethier and Loney again trended the wrong way against left-handed pitching in 2011. The Dodgers certainly lack promising power hitting prospects, and it’s no surprise given how little they’ve spent in the draft and even worse in international signings. (Mike Scioscias Tragic Illness has a great article on this disturbing trend) They seem to have a legitimate above average major leaguer in Sands, and it would be a travesty to see him sent back to AAA or only given a part-time role in 2012. But honestly, after Ned’s lackluster free-agent frenzy of signing a bunch of old guys, does anyone really expect anything else for the talented Mr. Sands?