At about this time last year, I was writing about Jerry Sands and his hot start in Spring Training.
With a 2-for-14 start in Spring Training this year and with his roster spot uncertain, Sands could begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque. I'm not saying basing decision off Spring Training numbers is smart, but we all know it happens. And despite my desire (for what it's worth) to let the young guys play, it's probably the right move for the team and Sands.
Manager Don Mattingly said he won't start the season platooning Andre Ethier and James Loney. With Juan Rivera getting a $4.5 million contract, there's pretty much no way Sands will beat him out for playing time. While he's better off playing for the Isotopes to start and has the inside edge to start down there, there are some guys who are jockeying for playing time: Scott Van Slyke, Alfredo Silverio, Alex Castellanos, Tyler Henson, Kyle Russell and possibly Josh Fields.
Sands hit 29 home runs last season for the Isotopes and 33 home runs overall (four with the Dodgers). He doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors, but playing everyday trumps a platoon/bench role in the majors in my eyes.
Van Slyke will certainly start somewhere -- possible first base. Silverio's status is unknown, but he should man center field when healthy. Castellanos will likely be tried at second base, but he does have experience in the corner outfield positions. Henson could be tried at third base but is probably better suited in the outfield. Russell is a prototypical right fielder. Fields has experience at first base, third base and left field.
Other position players in the Isotope mix include Ivan De Jesus, Justin Sellers (though, he should begin the season in the majors), Tim Federowicz, Trent Oeltjen (even though I don't know why he still has a spot on the 40-man roster), Russ Mitchell, Josh Bard and newly acquired Matt Angle.
Here's what I think the projected lineup should be, but we know it won't work out exactly this way:
De Jesus SS
Van Slyke 1B
Cory Sullivan could also be a possibility in center field if Silverio isn't healthy to start the season.
The pitching staff, on the other hand, doesn't look nearly as good as the offense does.
John Ely, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Carlos Monasterios and any number of pitchers could fill out the rotation. No one in that group really jumps out at you. We're a long time removed from "Elymania" and Monasterios is coming off Tommy John Surgery and probably won't be ready until mid-summer.
Guys like Ryan Tucker, Will Savage, Scott Rice and maybe Josh Wall (which would be intriguing) could see some time out of the bullpen.
The Pacific Coast League is famous for inflating numbers and with the Isotopes' potential on offense, they're going to be a lot of fun to watch. Just don't expect them to win many 1-0, 2-1 games.