Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jerry Sands, Dodgers' starting right fielder in 2012

Well, at least he should be.

Jerry Sands had an up-and-down season in the minors. It's tough to be too down on a guy who hit .278/.344/.586 with 29 home runs in the Triple-A as a 23-year-old, but his numbers could have been a lot better.

He started the season on fire, going 16-for-40 (.400) with 5 home runs and 17 RBI in April. That hot start got him promoted to Los Angeles. He hit just .200/.294/.328 in 125 at-bats for the Dodgers. He was sent back to Albuquerque and, despite a nice month of June (.310/.404/.607, 6 HR, 18 RBI), he had just a bad month of July (.202/.282/.423, 6 HR, 17 RBI). He picked it up in August to finish with 29 home runs in 94 games.

His home/road splits are a bit concerning, though.

Home: .355/.414/.739, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 24 BB, 41 K
Road: .186/.258/.401, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 14 BB, 45 K

The Pacific Coast League is a hitter's haven, but he struggled mightily on the road.

Despite the drastic splits, Sands has been on fire in L.A. in his last nine games: .457/.500/.629 while playing left and right field.

Now, we know Andre Ethier has been playing right field since the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez in 2008. Ethier is a much better fit in left field for a number of reasons, the biggest of which being his arm.

His arm, while not Juan Pierre-like, is weak for right field.

His ARM ratings -- Outfield Arm Runs Above Average -- by FanGraphs do not lie.

Career ARM in LF: 3.3
Career ARM in RF: -7.7

He's 3.3 runs better than average in left and -7.7 runs worse than average in right. Couple that with the fact that Sands looks mighty comfortable in either outfield position and it's a no-brainer.



This catch was from the March 30 exhibition game against the Mariners (with Rubby De La Rosa on the mound). Now, I'm not basing his defensive ability off one play in Spring Training, but I don't think it matters what corner Sands plays. He's capable of playing right field at a higher level than Ethier. And his arm is much, much better.

Of course, this is the Dodgers we're talking about. Ethier isn't married to right field and the move would help improve the overall outfield defense.

Sands had a career-high-tying four hits and four RBI in the Dodgers' 15-1 win against the Pirate today. Barring anything unforeseen, the soon-to-be-24-year-old should be playing some corner for the Dodgers in 2012. Logic dictates it be right field, but I guess as long as he's playing, there isn't much to complain about.

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Matt Kemp is up to 34 home runs and 40 stolen bases, if ya need him. He didn't start September on the best of feet, but he's up to .288/.403/.441 for the month. He'll need a big in the Dodgers' final 10 games if he's to dethrone front-runner Ryan Braun in the race.

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James Loney might very well be the Dodgers first baseman in 2012. His August and September could persuade the Dodgers' front office to keep the slick-fielding first baseman.

I've always been a Loney supporter and I know the guy hitting .333/.401/.606 for the last two months is not the real James Loney. His 2011 salary is $4.875 million and he will get a slight raise if the Dodgers go to arbitration with him one more time. The question is: will they?

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. wrote Loney is the "Same as he ever was." The numbers don't lie, but the mention of the Dodgers' change at hitting coach (from Jeff Pentland to Dave Hansen) is an interesting point.

Without a clear-cut option in the minors, he could conceivably be back. Part of me wants him back, part of me thinks it's time to move on. What's one more season, I suppose?

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Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness has a nice write-up on Jonathan Broxton and the likelihood of him throwing his last pitch for the Dodgers.

True Blue L.A. has the Dodgers' 25th week in review.

Kenny Shulsen of Lasorda's Lair makes his pick for the Ogden Raptors' team MVP.

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