by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Jerry Sands – Tampa Bay Rays
Sands put his name on the map in 2010 when he hit 35 HR between Single and Double-A. He followed that up with 29 HR in just 370 AB at Triple-A in 2011, leading to his first taste of the Majors with the Dodgers.
However, despite hitting 26 HR in 2012, he barely got a chance in the Majors (23 AB) and then suddenly disappeared. He was traded to Pittsburgh, where he struggled in the minors in 2013 (.212 with 9 HR), never reaching the Majors.
It was easy to forget about Sands entering 2014, though that may prove to be a mistake. Now in the Tampa Bay organization, he’s once again making some noise.
In his first 19 games (67 AB) all he has done is hit .358 with 5 HR and 15 RBI. He’s excelled by improving his eye at the plate, with a 15.0% strikeout rate (21.9% in the minors since 2011) and 15.0% walk rate (11.3%).
It’s a very small sample size, but those trends are promising. They also aren’t the only good things we are seeing.
- Sands is hitting the ball hard, with a 28.6% line drive rate
- Sands’ 27.8% HR/OFB is high, but not unrealistically so (23.8% in ’11 and 19.5% in ’12)
Yes, there’s some luck involved (.373 BABIP), but you still have to like the promising start. With Tampa Bay left fielders hitting just .219 (though with 5 HR), is it impossible to think he plays himself into an opportunity?
He’s hardly a guarantee to produce, but in deeper formats he also is impossible to ignore.
Jesus Aguilar – Cleveland Indians
Aguilar became a hot name this spring, despite going hitless in 15 AB. However, he certainly hasn’t carried those issues over into the start of the Triple-A season. Over his first 61 AB at Triple-A he’s hit .393 with 5 HR and 12 RBI (as well as adding 5 doubles).
Obviously the average isn’t sustainable (.432 BABIP), but what’s interesting is that he’s actually improved his strikeout rate as he has advanced up the ladder:
- 2012 (High-A) – 21.5%
- 2013 (Double-A) – 18.9%
- 2014 (Triple-A) – 17.4%
Couple that with very real power (15.5% HR/OFB since 2011) and there is promise. He does have a good eye at the plate (10.0% walk rate), just adding to the positives.
There’s no obvious spot for him to play, but as Nick Swisher continues to struggle (.213 with 2 HR), you have to wonder… No, you really don’t as there is no threat in a change coming there. However, could he be useful in a DH role? Could he get an opportunity should there be an injury (either to Swisher or an outfielder, moving Swisher out there)? Absolutely.
He’s not going to be a stud, but he certainly has value and could chip in a few HR if called upon.
Sources – Minor League Central, Fangraphs, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Minor League Baseball