Friday, January 4, 2013

Jerry Sands

Jerry Sands is a native of Smithfield, North Carolina, farming country, and grew up country strong. At 6'4", 210 pounds, he played both baseball and football for Smithfield-Selma High, the school that produced catcher Barry Foote, a ten-year MLB vet who played from 1973-82 for four NL teams.

He was hindered in recruiting somewhat by being a two-sport star from a small school, cursed with the "athlete" tag. A couple of ACC teams wanted Sands to walk on for football and/or baseball, but he decided to stick to baseball and joined some friends on the D-2 Catawba squad. Good choice, at least for the Indians. Sands set school records for homers (61), walks (132) and slugging (.752), while compiling a .381 career BA.

Still, Division 2 is Division 2, and he ended up drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 25th round of the 2008 draft, signing for the princely sum of $5,000.

Sands started off with the GCL Dodgers in 2008, hitting just .205 in 46 games. The big bopper struck out at a 23% rate, but showed a decent eye in drawing walks (16%; .346 OBP) and did have a .438 slugging % with 10 long balls in 46 games.

LA moved him up to Class A Great Lakes of the Midwest League to open his sophomore campaign. After a slow start, he was shipped down to short-season Ogden of the Pioneer League, and that turned on the light. Sand's line there was .350/.427/.687 with 14 HR and 39 RBI in 41 games, and he was selected to the PL All-Star team. In August, he was given a return ticket to Great Lakes.

He finished 2009 with a .260/.361/.510 slash for the Loons. Going into 2010, Baseball America ranked him the #25 Dodger prospect after the season, so he was starting to show on the radar.

In 2010 with Great Lakes, Sands broke out, putting up a line of .333/.432/.646 in 69 games, with 18 homers and 46 RBI. He was named Midwest League Player of the Week three times and appeared in the mid-season All-Star game, where he was named Player of the Game.

After the all-star game, Sands was promoted to the Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League, where he homered in his first game. He returned to earth a little, but still had a strong line of .270/.360/.529 with 17 more dingers and 47 RBI. Sands was named the Dodgers' Minor League Player of the Year, and capped the tour de force by playing for Don Mattingly's Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League.

As to be expected, his prospect status hit the stratosphere. John Sickels had him at #2, Fangraphs at #4, Baseball Prospectus at #5, BA at #6 and at #9. Sands also got an invite to spring training.

He was assigned to the Class AAA Albuquerque Isotopes in the Pacific Coast League to open the 2011 season. Sands bashed, hitting .400 with five home runs and was called up by the Dodgers on April 18th. To clear a spot on the 25 and 40 man rosters for him, LA DFA'ed OF Xavier Paul, who in the "small world" department was claimed by the Buccos.

Sands played in 41 games for the Dodgers on a fairly regular basis, but his line was a disappointing .200/.294/.328 with two homers in 144 PA. He was sent back to the Isotopes on June 8th and continued to clean up in the hitter's paradise of the PCL. Sands' slash in AAA was.278/.344/.586 with 29 home runs and 88 RBI when Albuquerque's season ended.

He was a September call-up and returned with a vengeance, collecting 24 hits in his last 59 at-bats. His final line looked OK after that surge at .253/.338/.389, although the slugging % was below what the Dodgers had hoped to see, with just four homers in 227 PA.

Sands only got a cup of coffee with LA in 2012, hitting just .174 in 23 at-bats. But he continued to kill the ball at Albuquerque. In 119 games with the Isotopes, his line was .296/.375/.524 with 26 homers and 107 RBI to go along with a 21 game hitting streak. Sands was selected as the DH for the All-PCL team and earned a spot on the Topps AAA All-Star team.

The big guy ended up with the Isotopes all year in part because he was a PTBNL in the Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzales, Carl Crawford deal with the Bosox. Because Sands didn't pass through waivers, he couldn't officially become part of the transaction until after the PCL season concluded. It apparently didn't make much diff to Boston; he never got a chance to suit up for them before he was shipped to Pittsburgh as part of the Hanny deal.

Sands has gotten 251 PA in the show with a line of .244/.325/.376, four homers and 27 RBI. His strikeout rate is 24% (21% in the minors), though he does have a 10% walk rate (12% in the minors) and a +OPS of 96. He's not a consistent hitter, but given to streaks.

The most noted concern is that his swing gets long, leaving him susceptible to off speed pitches, late on heaters and the major cause of his high K rate. And Sands' splits are heavily tilted toward lefties (.316/.372/.532 v LHP; .204/.301/.289 v RHP in the show), so he has the look of a platoon-type player.

He has good speed for a big guy and enough arm to play right. One thing in his favor is that he's not a pull hitter, a bad thing for a RH to be at PNC Park, but has good power to right and right center. Sands has career .289/.376./.562 slash in the minors, and is a classic corner guy, having split his field time equally among left field, right field and first base.

Sands adds to the logjam among 1B/corner OF in Pittsburgh, and that leads to speculation that the Bucs may have another deal up their sleeve with that depth. If not, he still has one option remaining, as does Alex Presley. If they don't move anyone, that could become a roster determining factor, as Travis Snider and Jose Tabata don't have any options left.

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