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2017 Prospect Watch: the Yankees Donny Sands

The New York Yankees Donny Sands made the difficult transition from hot corner to backstop last season. Now, in 2017, we will see if he can put his whole game together.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While the New York Yankees went out and made some big trades at the deadline to turn around their farm system, they have some nice pieces in the lower minors they have acquired through the draft. One of those players is Donny Sands.

Looking at the stats, Sands doesn't jump off the page as a top prospect, and quite frankly, he isn’t that just now. But what he has exhibited through his year and a half as a pro baseball player is that he has the athleticism, makeup and desire to succeed.

Sands was selected in the eighth round in the 2015 MLB Draft out of Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona. He was teammates with the more highly sought Jio Orozco, who he is now teammates with again after last season’s Ben Gamel deadline deal with the Mariners. In this video from the Arizona Star Tribune, you’ll see he and his mother always had a feeling that the Yankees would come calling. The emotions on the day it finally happened are well worth the watch:

A long time Derek Jeter fan, his childhood team came calling, and it was enough to deter Sands from his commitment to New Mexico. He signed almost immediately for a mere $100,000 contract, and has seemed like a bargain ever since.

The first thing that jumps off the page about Sands is his position. He played 20 games behind the plate last season making just two errors in 182 chances. He threw out just 18 percent of base runners (6-for-33) and did allow 14 passed balls. But to be fair, it was his first go as a catcher in his young career.

Sands was a middle infielder in high school, primarily playing shortstop, accumulating a .450 batting average and driving in 163 runs in his career. The six-foot-two, 190 pound right-hander also pitched, and pretty well at that, striking out 38 in 23.1 innings. Not knowing if he would have the range to play the middle of the infield, the Yankees moved Sands to third base for his debut season.

He was superb in the Gulf Coast League, slashing .309/.405/.364, with nine doubles and no home runs, but he showed fantastic plate discipline, walking 24 times and striking out just 15 in 162 at bats. He jumped to Charleston for seven games and handled the advanced pitching just fine, slashing .310/.333/.345.

Making his second position change in as many years, Sands moved behind home plate for the 2016 season, and despite some of the aforementioned growing pains, it looks like he is there to stay. His offensive stats didn’t jump off the page in 2016, as he slashed .286/.328/.375. He did hit his first two home runs, and posted a respectable 13-to-7 strikeout-to-walk rate in 112 at bats, but he didn’t take a giant leap.

It’s ok, though, as he was clearly focused on honing his new position skills. He has a quick bat, with solid command of the strike zone, and makes constant contact. Right now, he seems to be more of a line drive hitter, who likes to go the other way for his doubles and singles. The two hit charts below from MLB Farm suggest that his power is pull right now, but he has shown the fundamentals to be an all-fields hitter.

Sands 1

Donny Sands spray chart

Sands 2

Donny Sands hit chart

Since Jorge Posada has retired, the Yankees have had some hit or misses behind the plate as they waited for Gary Sanchez to mature. Sands has a long way to go, but now with a season as a backstop behind him, it will be interesting to see what kind of steps he takes forward, both offensively and defensively this season. Expect him to get back to Charleston, with possibly a quick rise to Tampa. That alone makes Sands a prospect to watch in 2017.