Fast forward one year: Sands did not make the club out of Spring Training and has obviously been surpassed by the recently recalled Scott Van Slyke.
Sands, 24, came up last season, gave Dodger fans some hope, struggled, was demoted and came back in September and hit well. I even penned a post saying he should have been the Dodgers' starting right fielder for 2012, as his last month of 2011 was promising.
But a poor Spring Training and Ned Colletti's irrational adoration of RBIMachine™ (Juan Rivera) meant Sands was out of luck.
One would expect him to go to Triple-A and rake, as he did to start last season. But he simply hasn't gotten on track.
Sands is at .232/.324/.400 with four home runs for the Isotopes so far this season. The on-base ability is still there, as his 19 walks in 125 at-bats proves. However, he's not hitting the ball well overall.
With Van Slyke's promotion and Alfredo Silverio out for the season after Tommy John surgery (my latest piece at ChadMoriyama.com), now is the time for Sands to remind the Dodgers of his abilities.
The Dodgers have long since been messing with Sands' swing in the minors. Like some right-handed hitters, the hole in Sands' swing was on the inside corner, possibly due to a hitch in his swing. The Dodgers messed with it in Spring Training last year, in Triple-A last year and Spring Training this year. There has to come a time when a team just stops messing with a guy and lets him do what he's done in the past to have success.
A prime example is Edwin Jackson. The Dodgers attempted to change his mechanics during the winter of 2003 (going into his age-20 season). Some speculate it caused his forearm injury, some say Jackson may have already been injured. One thing's for sure: he wasn't he same pitcher he was in the minors or after outdueling Randy Johnson on Jackson's 20th birthday. He was shipped off to Tampa Bay after the 2005 season.
Jackson went onto have some success in Tampa, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis since leaving the Dodgers -- presumably because those teams didn't mess with his mechanics.
Not every player is going to have picture-perfect mechanics -- on the mound or in the batter's box. Jackson and Sands are two examples of guys who came up through the Dodgers' system. Hell, Mike Piazza didn't have perfect mechanics at the plate (a noticeable hitch), but he ended up being the best hitting catcher of all-time.
(No, I'm not comparing Sands to Piazza).
But while the Dodgers need to stop messing with Sands' swing, Sands also has to take it upon himself to re-establish himself as a legitimate player the Dodgers can turn to for some power. He was my No. 1 prospect heading into last season and he has the ability to be that good. But he has to put in the work to do so (and I'm not saying he hasn't).
It's easy to jump on the "he can't hit away from Albuquerque" bandwagon -- the splits are quite drastic: 1.059 OPS at home, .654 on the road. But to do that would be a disservice to the numbers he put up in 2010 in the Midwest and Southern Leagues: 1.078 OPS with the Loons, .889 with the Lookouts. As a 22-year-old, that's not too shabby.
With Van Slyke passing him on the organizational depth chart, it's a longer road ahead for Sands than it was at this time last year.
Having said all of this, I still think Sands can be successful and potentially bat in the middle of the Dodgers' lineup. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was traded sometime this season to help the Dodgers acquire a legitimate bat. And for that to happen, Sands needs to start hitting to prove he still has value.
Photo credit: LWY, Flickr