Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to the Dodgers’ minor league affiliates knows that there is an abundance of outfield talent down on the farm – guys like Scott Van Slyke (who was recently called up to the Big club as a replacement for the injured Juan Rivera and who is currently batting 1.000), Matt Angle, Alex Castellanos, Alfredo Silverio, Kyle Russell, and Blake Smith to name only a few. And then, of course, there is Jerry Sands. Sands had the world by the tail last season but as the old saying goes “What have you done for me lately?”
After a great spring training in 2011, Sands was called up to the Big club in May of last season; and while he struggled initially and was sent back down to Triple-A, he quickly found his stroke and returned a few weeks later and enjoyed success as the season wound down giving every indication that he was up to stay. In fact, Sands entered spring training 2012 with a position on the Opening Day roster that was unquestionably his to lose… and he did just that. Jerry had what can only be described as a disastrous spring training and did, in fact, lose his roster spot, thus starting the 2012 season at Triple-A Albuquerque where his struggles have continued – until last week, that is.
In his last 10 games, Sands has put up ‘Kemp-like’ numbers going 10 for 32 (.313) with 4 home runs (including two on May 13) and 11 RBIs, and while Triple-A numbers don’t always carry over to the Majors (rarely actually), given Jerry’s success last season, he may just be able to pull it off… if he gets any playing time, that is. With a long-term contract extension likely for two-time All-Star and Gold Glove right fielder Andre Ethier; and with Tony Gwynn Jr. having an All-Star kind of season himself (if such a thing is possible for a 4th outfielder); and with Van Slyke having (apparently) jumped over Sands on the organizational chart; and with recently acquired veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu doing exceptionally well; and (most importantly) with Jerry Sands being called up to fill the roster spot for some guy named Matt Kemp who was just placed on the 15-day DL and who will immediately get his Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, MVP spot back the very second that he is healthy enough to return, Jerry Sands could very well be facing his last opportunity of ever becoming a Dodger. Regardless of these seemingly insurmountable odds, what it clearly means is that Jerry Sands has absolutely zero margin for error during the next 15 days and he absolutely must capitalize at every given opportunity; and even if he does, his ticket to the Bigs on this trip from Albuquerque is a round trip ticket no matter how well he does.
All of this said, Jerry Sands is a tremendously talented baseball player and he will, no doubt, one day be a full-time starting outfielder or first baseman in the Majors; whether it will be with the Dodgers or another organization remains to be seen.