Differing Opinions On Jerry Sands in 2012

There’s been a lot of Jerry Sands talk around the internet in the last week, and while Sands hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy, I suppose that’s an expected side effect of there being absolutely zero on-field Dodger news for at least another week. (Off-field, on the other hand…)

Last week, when I looked at Sands’ 2011 in review, I noted that he was a changed player in his return stint as a Dodger, which is hardly out of the ordinary. Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw each went back to the farm after making their initial debuts, and like Sands, Dee Gordon looked much more comfortable his second time around this year. (I also pointed out how terrifying his AAA home/road splits were and prayed that he could avoid the dreaded ABQ effect.)

ESPN’s Keith Law then fielded a question about Sands in his weekly chat last Thursday:

Robbie (Silver Spring, MD)
What’s a reasonable expectation from Jerry Sands next year? .260/.330/.430 sound about right?

Maybe lower OBP, more SLG, with below-average defense. That’s not an everyday player.

Law’s outlook seems pessimistic, though I will admit that Law is someone I respect greatly and one of the rare ESPN analysts who manages to have a rational, informed viewpoint on the game and prospects in particular. Law seems to be ballparking .260/.320/.440 (ish) for Sands, and I’d like to think that he can do better – at least in the OBP department.

Today, Chad Moriyama digs deeper into the changes Sands made while back in ABQ, comparing swing mechanics from his two stints with the Dodgers, and concluding that Sands made noticable improvements in holding his hands higher, opening up his stance, and distributing his weight. It’s well worth a click to read the entire piece and see the swing comparisons, but here’s Chad’s takeaway:

I’m not at all familiar with whoever reconstructed the swing of Jerry Sands, but in my opinion, whoever did it knew exactly what they were doing and should take credit for it.

While I listed the advantages of the adjustments above, the changes themselves are not what impressed me, but rather it was what they fixed that was important.

I think what’s most important when making adjustments to the swing of a professional player is not trying to fit everybody’s swing into an ideal, but rather sculpting what they already have and making it efficient.

From what I’ve seen, that’s exactly what these changes do, as they ask Sands to learn to layoff fastballs up and then both allow him to expand on a strength (down) and create a solution for weaknesses (in, breaking balls).

To say I’m impressed by the changes that have taken place is an understatement.

That’s high praise. So what should we expect from Sands next year? I’ve never thought he’d be a star, but I do tend to agree with Chad, because the Sands we saw in September was noticably different than the one we saw in May. That said, we should know better to put too much stock into three weeks of play against expanded roster opponents, and I don’t love that Law doesn’t like him. (Roberto at Vin Scully is My Homeboy gets in on the Sands-mania with video of him playing winter ball in the Dominican, so you can get an even more recent look at his swing.)

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Sands really has to be ready. This is a team that’s probably going to be counting on James Loney again and doesn’t really have a left field solution, unless you’re really excited about bringing back Juan Rivera and Tony Gwynn. He doesn’t need to hit 30 homers – and he won’t – but is it unreasonable to ask for a .340 OBP, 15 homers, plenty of doubles, and average defense in left field? I’d like to think that it isn’t too much to ask, and for the Dodgers’ sake, it better not be.



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