That would be Jerry Sands, capable of playing both positions. Sands came over from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade but did not join the organization until after the season, so you can be forgiven for forgetting about Sands.
But Sands doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
The 25-year-old pulverized Triple-A pitching in 2012, earning 459 plate appearances and hitting .296/.375/.524, bashing 26 home runs, 17 doubles and four triples. This much is clear: Sands has power. The problem? He strikes out a lot, perhaps too much to allow him to be a significant contributor in the majors. Sands whiffed 20.3 percent of the time in Triple-A. That number unsurprisingly spiked in the majors. He earned just 24 plate appearances with the Dodgers this year, but grabbed 227 last season, so over a career 251 PA, he’s struck out a whopping 37.5 percent of the time. That’s why his major-league average is just .244 without his trademark power.
To put how frequently Sands strikes out in context, the major-league leader in whiff percentage of plate appearances last year was Adam Dunn at 34.2 percent, followed by Pedro Alvarez at 30.7 percent. Other players that whiffed at least 30 percent of the time include Drew Stubbs, Carlos Pena and Chris Davis. (Just for kicks, in 2004, Mark Bellhorn struck out exactly 30 percent of the time.) That’s a pretty solid group, but none of them are superstars. Only strong, quality power could keep someone playing with those kind of numbers, and while Sands has power, does he have power to the level of Dunn, Alvarez or Davis? Doubtful.
“I like his power but contact issues are a concern,” a scout told CSNNE. “His walks are up, which is a positive. Played a solid left but limited to left field/right field . He can also play first base, but much better in left field. I was a little higher on his “D” than most but he is an average defender at best. Runs well for a big man but not a threat. I had him as an extra/fourth outfielder type. Those power numbers in Albuquerque are a little exaggerated due to the light air but he has 20-plus home run power. I do not think he will ever hit for much of an average — .240 – .250 type.”
As impressive as Sands’ Triple-A numbers were, he played in a park and in a league more conducive to hitters than pitchers. But you know what? Sands is 25, and baseball players do adjust. It’s entirely possible that Sands could cut down his strikeout numbers and become a strong lineup presence. Even if he can’t, his ability to play first and the outfield corners as well as center in a pinch offers strong value with someone with his power potential. The Red Sox shouldn’t give him either first or left field outright next year, but they absolutely should game-plan to have Sands on the bench and utilize him as a platoon candidate.
As a right-hander, Sands can get the bulk of playing time against left-handed pitchers. That could also free up the club to pursue a low-cost alternative to be Sands’ platoon caddy to sink more money into the other two positions this offseason as well as defer long-term decisions on players to fill these spots, as it’s asking far too much to ask Boston to plug all their holes immediately. In fact, GM Ben Cherington identified Sands as a platoon candidate at first base. That’s unsurprising, as the first base options on the market are weak and the price points of Adam LaRoche and Mike Napoli probably won’t make sense for Boston.
The takeaway here is that the Red Sox are in a position to allow a player such as Sands to grow into his role. The best way to succeed is to find a player at a reasonable cost and give him the chance to succeed in the majors with extended playing time. Take a look at Josh Reddick — he never really had the opening and chance to play in Boston, and while I don’t think many could have seen his year in Oakland coming, the bottom line is that he finally got to get extended reps at the major-league level after heading to the A’s and it paid off wonderfully.
“He’s a big power-type guy. That’s a big part of his game,” a different scout told CSNNE. “I think eventually he’s going to be OK. I know [the Dodgers] had some situations with him where if he doesn’t hit, he wants to start changing things, and they were trying to be patient with him doing that. But I think he’s going to get everything straightened out, and he’s going to be a pretty good offensive-type guy. He’s a playable defensive guy. He’s one of those guys, if he hits and hits for power, his defense is going to be good enough. He’s more of a fringe defender in the outfield. But if he hits 40 home runs, then he’s a very good outfielder. I think he’s got some promise to him.”
The Sox might have a diamond in the rough. It’s up to them to ensure they give that diamond a chance to polish itself.