Jerry Sands Prospect Ranking Review

Sands has skyrocketed up the prospect rankings over the past few years.

With Jerry Sands making is major league debut this week, I thought I’d take a look at his prospect status over the past few years.  There was obviously no fanfare when the 20 year old was drafted out of Catawba College, and I highly doubt any Dodger fan had any kind of scounting report on him at the time.  Using TBLA's nifty search function, I did not find a single story, fanpost, or comment about Sands during all of 2008.  In fact, the earliest mention I found of Sands on TBLA was June 24, 2009 when I posted in a comment about him in an article Phil had written about the 2009 Ogden Raptors roster.  So let's look back where he ranked on various sites throughout the years.

Prior to the 2009 Season – None of the major publications paid any attention to him, and for good reason.  He had only hit .205 in the GCL, although his 10 homers did earn him some respect in my book.  I had him ranked #81 in my pre-2009 minor league ranking, which is pretty good for a 25th round pick.  While I didn't post my pre-2009 prospect ranking on TBLA (I posted it in the scount.com forems back then) this is what I had to say about him back in January 2009:

Sands was the Dodgers 25th round pick in 2008 out of Catawba College in North Carolina, a NCAA division II school.  During his 3 years at Catawba, Sands had a .381 career batting average and hit 61 home runs.  His power numbers continued during his debut season with the Dodgers as he hit 10 HR’s in 46 games, which placed him second in HR’s in the GCL.  His power comes from his 6’4” and 210 pound frame, which is ideal for a power hitting outfielder.  Sands isn’t bad on the base paths or in the field either, as he stole 5 bases without being caught, and only made one error all season.  While he only hit .205 during 2008, I attribute that to his adjustment to the professional level.  I predict that Sands will jump to Lo-A in 2009, and if he has another power outburst, the Dodgers will be looking at late round gem.

Prior to the 2010 season – Sands had a big season in 2009, tearing up the Pioneer League and then putting up respectable numbers in the Midwest League to end the season.  It was a breakout season for the young man, although at this point he was far from a can't miss prospect.  Baseball America ranked him at #25 heading into the 2010 season, while Baseball prospectus didn't include Sands in their top 15.  He also didn't make the cut in TBLA's top 15 prospect vote, while he only earned an "Other" mention/Grade C from John Sickels at minorleagueball.com.  Our very own Phil did have "Gerald" Sands as his 10th best hitting prospect, and qualified his ranking with "I'm probably ranking Gerald Sands to high compared to Scott Van Slyke but of the two I'm betting on Gerald Sands."  I had Sands at #23 in my pre-2010 minor league ranking, and here is what I had to say about him then:

Sands was the Dodgers 25th round pick in 2008 out of Catawba College in North Carolina, a NCAA division II school.  During his 3 years at Catawba, Sands had a .381 career batting average and hit 61 home runs.  His power numbers continued during his debut season with the Dodgers as he hit 10 HR’s in 46 games, which placed him second in HR’s in the GCL.  In my write-up last year, I said “if he has another power outburst in 2009, the Dodgers will be looking at late round gem.”  Well Sands definitely had another power outburst in 2009, smacking 19 home runs and recording an OPS of 1.019 (which ranked 2nd in the entire Dodgers minor league system for players with at least 175 AB’s).  Sands started the season in LoA, but struggled so badly that he was sent back to extended spring training in May.  After working on his game, Sands resurfaced in the Pioneer League and was absolutely brilliant.  He placed 4th in the league with 14 HR’s despite having just 163 at bats (the three players that ranked ahead of Sands in HR’s had at least 287 at bats), and his 1.114 OPS would have ranked first in the league had he qualified with enough plate appearance.  Jerry was promoted back up to the Midwest League in August and this time found much more success, hitting .287 and adding 5 more home runs to his season total.  A multidimensional player, Sands makes relatively good contact for a power hitter (he struck out in 19.5% of plate appearances in 2009) and hits the ball to all fields.  He also has decent speed and can play all three outfield positions along with first base.  However, his most likely destination is right field because of his strong arm and below average range.  Overall, Sands is a very intriguing prospect with a very high ceiling.  With 29 home runs in 119 games over the past two years, that projects out to almost 40 HR’s over a 162 game schedule.  I'm not saying that Sands is ever going to hit 40 HR's in the big leagues, but I think that if he continues to improve, he has the chance to be a solid MLB regular.  That's pretty good for a former 25th round pick.  2010 should see Sands return to LoA to start the season, but by the end of the year he may find himself in AA.

Prior to the 2011 season – We all know what happened during the 2010 season, which is when Sands really burst onto the scene with 35 homers and an all around outstanding season.  Even still, a few publications didn't have Sands as high as he should have been.  Baseball America had him at #6, while Baseball Prospectus called him a 3 Star Prospect at #5.  Baseball HQ and Fangraphs ranked Sands at #4, and milb.com inexplicably put Sands at #9.  On the other hand, TBLA was one of the only sites to rank Sands #1, although John Sickels also gave him respect and ranked Jerry just behind Dee Gordon at #2.  I also had Sands #2 in my pre-2011 minor league ranking, and wrote this:

To say Jerry Sands came out of nowhere in 2010 is a bit of an exaggeration since he’s shown tremendous power dating back to his college days.  During his 3 years at Catawba College in North Carolina, Sands had a .381 career batting average and hit 61 home runs.  His power numbers continued during his debut season with the Dodgers as he hit 10 HR’s in just 46 games, and he then smacked 19 bombs in 2009 despite logging just 267 at bats.  Even still, nobody could have predicted Sands’ meteoric rise through the Dodgers minor league system in 2010, although I came pretty close in my write-up last season when I said: “Sands is a very intriguing prospect with a very high ceiling.  With 29 home runs in 119 games over the past two years, that projects out to almost 40 HR’s over a 162 game schedule.  I'm not saying that Sands is ever going to hit 40 HR's in the big leagues, but I think that if he continues to improve, he has the chance to be a solid MLB regular.  That's pretty good for a former 25th round pick.  2010 should see Sands return to LoA to start the season, but by the end of the year he may find himself in AA.”  In 2010 Jerry didn’t quite hit 40 jacks, but he did have a monster season as his 35 homers were just one shy of the minor league HR title.  Sands also hit .301 with 18 stolen bases and a .981 OPS despite playing in two pitching friendly leagues, and ended up winning the Dodgers minor league player of the year award.  Scout say that he has power to all fields, above average bat speed, and very strong wrists.  When you look at Sands’ splits between LoA and AA, his batting average, slugging %, and on base % all dropped a bit in Chattanooga, but he had no trouble maintaining his power numbers as he hit 17 homers in just 68 games.  In addition, Sands was able to make decent contact throughout the entire season, and his strikeout rate actually decreased from 21.3% in LoA to 20.5% in AA.  After the season Sands played in the AFL where he continued to put up very solid stats against the advanced competition.  The big question that people have about Sands relates to his defense.  Is he an outfielder?  1st baseman?  DeJon Watson answered that question by saying that he can play both and that the Dodgers don’t have to limit him.  Watson thinks that Sands’ versatility will help Ned Colletti down the road when he is building his team, and went on to say “His defense is fine, his base running is fine, and his arm is above average.  Also his approach at the plate has been consistent all year.  However, you can’t put a time table on when he’ll make the big leagues, and it is going to come down to how he continues to progress and when the Dodgers have a need for him.”  Personally, I believe that Sands is a good enough fielder to play 1st base, left field, or right field at the big league level.  He might not ever earn a gold glove, but I’ve seen him play enough to know he can handle each of those positions.  3rd base, however, seems very unlikely.  My gut tells me that he’ll probably start his career as a left fielder while getting occasional starts in right, but that he’ll end up at 1st later on down the road.  2011 should see Sands start back in AA, and as Watson said his major league debut will really depend on when he’s needed.  No matter where he plays, I expect another big season out of the 23 year old.  Finally, Sands got engaged this offseason and is set to be married on November 19, 2011.  Sorry ladies.

Why #2: I really like Sands as a prospect, and I believe he has what it takes to be a big league regular for years to come with the potential for a .300 average and 30 homers annually.  The only reason I have him behind Zach Lee is because I think Lee is going to be a stud pitcher. 

Let's all cross our fingers that Sands won't be eligible for prospect rankings next offseason, and I'm sure he won't be since all he needs is 130 big league at bats between now and the end of this season.

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