Ok, before you read this post, you need to know I am a big Dodgers fan, so my Dodger blue in the sky bias may be coming out here, but nonetheless, read on.
Jerry Sands was drafted in the 25th round of the 2008 draft out of Division II school Catawba. He struggled initially in pro ball, but had a breakout season in 2010, at the age of 22, hitting a combined .301-.395-.586 with 35 HRs, 93 RBIs and 18 SBs and a 123-73 K/BB rate. He can play first base or left field, and I can understand why the Dodgers did not go out and sign a left fielder to a long-term contract this offseason, as Sands should be ready for a major league job in 2012. I see him starting the season in AAA Albuquerque where hitters usually thrive.
But, for me, I am confused as to why some of the prospect experts, John Sickels excluded, do not give Sands much respect in their rankings. Here is what John had to say about Sands in his Dodgers Top 20 list this season:
2) Jerry Sands, 1B-OF, Grade B: I think his bat is for real, should be a very productive power hitter. Ranks behind Gordon due to future position value but that is not a knock on Sands.
More after the jump
SB Nation's Dodgers site, TrueBlueLA, ranked Sands as their #1 prospect for 2011. Baseball America published their Top 10 Dodger prospects recently and ranked Sands as their #6 Dodgers prospect, despite a glowing scouting report on him. In their league Top 20 lists, BA ranked Sands very low in both the Midwest and Southern league rankings, if I remember correctly.
On Thursday, ESPN's Keith Law published his Top 100 rankings and Sands did not appear in his list. When asked during his Thursday chat about Sands, he responded that he "questions the hit tool against better pitchers and doesn't like the swing". I respect Law greatly, but am not sure where this comment is coming from. I know Law leans toward high ceiling/high upside hitters in his rankings, so maybe he doesn't see much more upside to Sands.
When Sands was bashing Low A pitchers, the knock on him was that he was too old for the league. Then, the Dodgers promoted him two levels to AA Chatanooga where he hit .270-.360-.529 with 17 HRs, 47 RBIs and a 62-33 K/BB rate. So, now the knock on him is his hit tool? Not sure I see that. Of course, I have only seen a few videos of Sands at the plate, and I am not a scout.
I tend to agree with John's opinion more than Baseball America and Keith Law, and here is why. As I stated above, it appears the Dodgers are clearing a spot for him in either left field or first base. The Dodgers presently have a platoon of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames in left field going into spring training in 2011. First base is currently occupied by James Loney, who has not hit for the power that some had projected for him when he was drafted, and coming up the ranks in the minors. Loney is up for arbitration next season, and I could see LA attempt to trade Loney this season, or next offseason, to open a spot for Sands. Sands provides the Dodgers with a power hitter they so desperately need.
The question I have is whether Sands is getting dinged for being such a low round draft pick. Do prospect experts/scouts form an opinion about a player, and stick with that opinion no matter how well that prospect performs? I wonder if that is true in Sands case.
In a recent chat over at Fake Teams, someone asked me who I compare Sands to. I find it difficult to come up with a comp, but I think I responded Josh Willingham with a better BA. Another comp could be Adam Dunn. Both Sands and Dunn are big boys. Sands stands 6'4' and 225 lbs. He also has power to all fields, hits for average, walks alot, and he can play first base or left field.
Sometimes, for fantasy purposes, one has to overlook the views and opinions of the prospect experts. This is not a knock on John, or any other expert that I read. They all provide valuable information which we all desire. But, just because a player doesn't make a Top 100 list, or rank highly on their teams Top 20 lists, does not mean the player can't provide value for fantasy purposes. Sands appears to be a solid power hitter, and most reports say he will do the same in the big leagues. I think Sands can be a valuable power hitter for fantasy owners come 2012, and I hope to have the opportunity to draft Sands in the minor league portion of the UBA league draft in April. The UBA league is an NL-only league that I have participated in for the last 4 years, and is the only league I am in that has a separate minor league draft.