Permanency hasn’t always been a thing in Jerry Sands’ life. During his past few offseasons the left fielder has served as a substitute teacher for middle and high schools, but looks to make a more prominent impact in his true subject of expertise — baseball.
Sands spent roughly two-thirds of the 2011 professional baseball season with Triple-A Albuquerque. He appeared in 94 games with the Isotopes, blasting 29 home runs and hitting .278, before making his Major League debut with the Dodgers. Dressed in “True Blue,” Sands posted a noticeable .253 batting average with four homers and 56 RBI in 61 games.
He’s hoping it will be enough to get a phone call from the Dodgers this season for a full-time spot rather than a roster fill-in. Unfortunately, when Sands’ phone finally rang, it wasn’t quite the call he expected.
The Dodger hopeful’s phone rang at 4:30 AM with an automated call from Johnston County School District, looking for a substitute teacher for the day. Not exactly the type of news a full-time position seeker is hoping for.
“I want to be the starting left-fielder,” the 24-year-old Sands told the Globe and Mail last Thursday, a few hours after notifying the schools that he won’t be available for at least the next six weeks. “But no matter where they put me, I’ve got to show I can play.”
Sands has made a fair impression thus far in Spring Training, catching the eyes of Manager Don Mattingly, who is concerned about giving Sands the right amount of playing time. Mattingly acknowledged a lack of at-bats could potentially stunt the growth of Sands’ Major League development.
However, ESPN reported today that Juan Rivera will get the “vast majority of starts in left field,” leaving Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry sands in reserve, bench spots. Mattingly also suggested Rivera wouldn’t see as many as 150 games, leaving room for the Dodgers to “mix and match with Tony Gwynn and Jerry Sands as far as lefty-righty.”
While it seems playing time is all but set for Sands, it still is too early to pigeon hole the slugger as a Triple-A/Major League rotating player. The season can bring about many kinds of opportunities through trades or injuries, and Sands has continually proven he can rise to the occasion. The full-time baseball commitment is much larger than a substitute teacher, but no one wants to give up chasing the big-league dream. That, and the league-minimum salary of $480,000 definitely beats his other options.
I’m sure even Sands’ middle school students can appreciate that math.
With MLB.com releasing their top prospects list for each club in the National League West in 2012, it’s time to take a look at previous year’s predictions and how they panned out.
We’ll first examine MLB.com’s top three prospects entering the 2010 season to compare their actual performance from earlier seasons against MLB’s predicted success in 2010. The same for 2011, with the prospect’s previous seasons compared to predicted success in 2011.
Each player’s final stats from that season are listed for you to judge if the prospect performed up to the hype.
The 2010 class included: Ivan DeJesus (SS ), Scott Elbert (LHP) and Dee Gordon (SS)
The 2011 class included: Zach Lee (RHP), Allen Webster (RHP) and Chris Withrow (RHP)
So let’s take a glance at how accurate the predictions have been, as well as who to expect in Albuquerque in 2012. (Chance to see with the ‘Topes is predicted on a 1-5 scale, 5 being the most likely to play for the team)
MLB.com – Top 3 Prospects 2010: Ivan DeJesus, SS | Scott Elbert, LHP | Dee Gordon, SS
1. Ivan DeJesus, SS
(2009) Entering his fifth season in the big leagues, DeJesus was poised for a comeback run after suffering a season-ending broken leg injury during Spring Training. The talented, young middle infielder had posted some gaudy numbers the previous year for Double-A Jacksonville, posting a .419 on-base percentage and hitting .324 in 463 at-bats. At the conclusion of the 2009 season, DeJesus made a strong enough recovery to appear in a few games of rookie ball and 10 games in winter ball.
(2010) As the 2010 season approached, DeJesus was ranked as the top upcoming prospect for the Dodger’s organization by MLB.com. The scouting report listed him as a “solid defender with terrific instincts and a great approach at the plate.” The Triple-A Isotopes slotted him as an everyday starter, but citing a limited defensive range, switched DeJesus to second base early in the season. Ivan finished the season ranking second on the Isotopes in games played (130) and base hits (158), but saw a decline in overall plate discipline.
2010 (AAA) Final Stat Line: 130 GP | .296 BA | .335 OBP | .405 SLG
*Chance to see with the ‘Topes in 2012: 5
2. Scott Elbert, LHP
(2009) Elbert was consistently ranked top in Dodger’s prospects from the year he was drafted. He played across the board during the 2009 season, making appearances for Double-A Chattanooga (62 innings), Triple-A Albuquerque (33 innings) and Major League Los Angeles (19 innings), including a post season roster spot with the Dodgers. The left-handed pitcher’s arsenal featured a mid-90s fastball complimented by a deadly slider that lead to a 9.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings pitched at the MLB level.
(2010) The lefty’s 2010 campaign was abruptly cut short when he left the organization because of “personal issues.” Elbert told the media, “It was just a lot of personal stuff I had to take care of, and that’s about it.” Adding to the confusion, the hurler had switched from a starting pitcher, to a reliever, then back to a starter over the previous few years, leaving his role in the rotation even more uncertain. Scott Elbert returned at the conclusion of the 2010 season to strike out 15 batters in 11.2 innings with the Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League, but still raised concerns over his lack of control on the mound.
2010 (AAA) Final Stat Line: 1-1 | 4.98 ERA | 43.1 IP | 45 SO
*Chance to see with the ‘Topes in 2012: 1
3. Dee Gordon, SS
(2009) The sky was the limit for the 21-year-old shortstop, who many dubbed as the 2010 prospect with the most upside. His 2009 season was decorated with numerous accolades including All-Star SS in MidWest League (MWL), MWL Prospect of the Year, Co-MVP of the MWL and Topps MWL Player of the Year. His awards came on the back of a .301 season at the plate with 73 stolen bases, and he left scouts drooling with his “80 speed on a scale of 20-80.”
(2010) Continuing on his successful trajectory, Gordon played in 133 games with the Chattanooga Lookouts in 2010. “Flash Junior’s” stats weren’t as impressive on paper during his promotion, but scouts saw the raw talent within the young prospect. He improved his defensive ability (despite 37 errors) to be named the Dodger’s best defensive infielder by Baseball America. Scouting reports of 2010 said Gordon, although very talented, “does need to be more patient at the plate and learn to take more walks.”
2010 (AA) Final Stat Line: 133 GP | .277 BA | .332 OBP | .355 SLG
*Chance to see with the ‘Topes in 2012: 1
MLB.com -Top 3 Prospects 2011: Zach Lee, RHP | Allen Webster, RHP | Chris Withrow, RHP
1. Zach Lee, RHP
(2010) The Dodger’s first round pick of the 2010 MLB Draft was high school phenom Zach Lee. The McKinney, Texas native mowed down batters his senior year to win 11 games, post a 2.15 ERA and fan 90 batters. Lee had originally signed to attend Louisiana State University on a dual football and baseball scholarship, but after being selected with the 28th overall pick in the amateur draft, headed to Single-A Great Lakes to begin his professional career.
(2011) The right-handed pitcher made an immediate impact on the Great Lakes Loons by starting 24 games in his rookie season. Using textbook mechanics, he packs a mid-90s fastball, breaking ball, slider and the occasional changeup. In addition, scouts have continuously praised the rookie’s body build and attitude, noting “he’s very athletic and brings a football-like competitiveness to the mound.” For future success, experts agree that Lee needs to continue to improve his command of his pitches and add some velocity to the fastball/slider combination.
2011 (A) Final Stat Line: 9-6 | 3.47 ERA | 109.0 IP |91 SO
*Chance to see with the ‘Topes in 2012: 2
2. Allen Webste, RHP
(2010) 2010 marked Allen Webster’s first full season outside of Rookie ball. The former 18th round selection answered the call by pitching in 131.1 innings for Single-A Great Lakes and posting a 12-9 record during the season. He was a Midwest League All-Star selection , but scouting reports suggest he lacks the potential upside of his fellow pitching prospects. Webster employs a five-pitch mix with a consistent delivery to appear a safe-bet to eventually become a Major League starter.
(2011) As he climbed the baseball ranks, so did his ERA. Allen Webster began the 2011 season with nine successful outings (2.33 ERA) before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. With the Lookouts, the slinger saw 91 innings of action but gave up 101 hits and seven home runs with a 5.04 ERA. Webster’s success relied upon his continued command on his changeup, perhaps the best of any of the Dodgers’ pitching prospects. Like most upcoming pitchers, reports insist upon adding velocity to help his chances of making the MLB squad.
2011 (AA) Final Stat Line: 6-3 | 5.04 ERA | 91.0 IP |73 SO
*Chance to see with the ‘Topes in 2012: 2
3. Chris Withrow, RHP
(2010) Chris Withrow is the opposite style of pitching prospect than his two counterparts Lee and Webster. Scouts are excited about the unharnessed potential in Withrow, but his command and mechanics still require work if he’s to be promoted to the next level. Withrow’s 2010 campaign resulted in below average numbers with flashes of potential. The pitcher went 4-9 with a 5.97 ERA in 129.2 innings of action and recorded one shutout. His performance and potential leave scouts excited, but he continued the following season with a third appearance in Double-A.
(2011) Last season marked Withrow’s third stint with the Lookouts. His developing fastball and curve left hitters guessing while he continues to develop his changeup. The right-handed pitcher lowered his ERA to 4.20 and collected 130 strikeouts with a 6-6 record. Although his control improved from the 2010 season, reports are still concerned with his overall pitching ability at this stage in his career, and some consider moving Withrow to a potential reliever out of the bullpen.
2011 (AA) Final Stat Line: 6-6 | 4.20 ERA | 128.2 IP |130 SO
*Chance to see with the ‘Topes in 2012: 3
MLB.com’s predictions have been strikingly accurate over the past few years, with most prospects reaching Double-A leagues by the end of the predicted season. This could mean good news for Albuquerque fans, as the ‘Topes are the next and final stop before the Big Show. This year’s selection includes Zach Lee (RHP), Nathan Eovaldi (RHP) and Allen Webster (RHP). Although some players coming to Triple-A may seem like a long shot, keep your fingers crossed to see a few of these quickly rising prospects here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
On Monday the Los Angeles Dodgers designated infielder Russ Mitchell for assignment in accordance with the 40-man roster limit. This move was processed to free up space for newly acquired pitcher Todd Coffey. Mitchell’s status remains on waivers, and if no team shows interest in the infielder within two business days, he can return to the Dodgers, most likely being outrighted to the Isotopes.
Mitchell, 26, split time between the Dodgers and Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes last season. The utility fielder hit .283 with 16 home runs in 336 at-bats with the ‘Topes, and appeared in 25 games with the Dodgers collecting eight hits and three RBI. In 40 career games at the Major League level, Mitchell has hit .151 in 93 at-bats.
Russ Mitchell’s standout moment occurred on May 20, 2011 with Los Angeles playing the first of a three game interleague series against the Chicago White Sox. Later dubbed “The Fog Game,” the Dodgers trailed the White Sox 2-3 in the 9th inning. Mitchell, who was penciled in the roster because of infield injuries, smashed a two-out, solo home run to tie the game. He again proved clutch in the 10th inning with a full-extension, diving snag at third base to prevent the game-winning runs from scoring. The Dodgers eventually went on to defeat the White Sox in a 6-4 final, largely due to the late-inning heroics of Russ Mitchell.
Still remaining on the 40-man roster are second baseman Ivan De Jesus Jr. and pitcher Ramon Troncoso. De Jesus spent the majority of the 2011 season with the Isotopes, hitting .310 with 29 extra-base hits and 59 RBI in 387 at-bats. The 24-year-old also proved a consistent glove in the field with a .989 fielding percentage with only four errors. Troncoso, 28, went 2-4 with a 5.05 ERA in 57 innings of work with the Isotopes in 2011, and posted a 6.75 ERA in 22.2 innings with the Dodgers.
De Jesus and Troncoso will be competing throughout Spring Training for a spot on Los Angeles’ final 25-man roster. Pitchers and catchers are set to report on February 19 and full squads on February 24. The exhibition games are scheduled from March 6 – April 1 at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.