The Red Sox have publicly identified first base, left field, and right field (along with starting pitching and shortstop) as areas of need. The offseason will be devoted to filling those spots, along with several other roster vacancies.
Free agents Mike Napoli or Adam LaRoche could be the answer at first. In the outfield, the Sox could bring back Cody Ross, or try to lure Torii Hunter or Nick Swisher, or maybe Jason Bay again. Or perhaps Swisher could be the answer at first.
Perhaps the answer to one or more of those questions is already in the organization. General manager Ben Cherington said at last weeks GM meetings that Jerry Sands could be a platoon option at first base.
Sands was part of the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in August, although, as a player to be named later, the Sox did not acquire him until Oct. 4. He was then added to the 40-man roster.
Sands, who turned 25 in September, was a 25th-round pick of the Dodgers in 2008 out of Catawba College in North Carolina. He made his big league debut last season, appearing in 61 games. This season he appeared in nine games for the Dodgers. He has appeared in 47 games in left field, 23 in right, seven at first base, and one in center field for the Dodgers all without making an error.
The right-handed batter has hit a combined .244 with four home runs, 27 RBI, a .325 on-base percentage, and .376 slugging percentage in the big leagues.
Listed at 6-feet, 4-four inches, and 225 pounds, Sands runs relatively well for a big guy. He is 3-for-6 in major league stolen base attempts, all in 2011. In the minors, he has 28 stolen bases, getting caught just four times. In 2010, he was 18-for-20. Last season, though, he was successful in his lone attempt.
Over five minor league seasons, he has hit .289 with a .376 OBP and .562 SLG, playing all three outfield positions, first base, and third base. He has appeared in more games, 173, at first base than any other position. But over the last two seasons -- both at Triple-A - he has appeared in 94 games in left, 89 at first, 52 in right, and one at third base.
In 119 games with Triple-A Albuquerque this season, he hit .296 with 26 home runs, 107 RBI, .375 OBP, and .524 SLG. In 2012, he played 60 games in left, making one error for a .992 fielding percentage, with 11 assists, 44 games at first base (seven errors, .983 fielding percentage), and 24 errorless games in right field.
His versatility is certainly attractive to the Red Sox. But, what is his best position and what can he offer the Sox offensively? Several scouts weighed in:
I like his power but contact issues are a concern, said one scout. His walks are up, which is a positive. Played a solid left but limited to left fieldright 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 extrafourth 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.
Sands has been brought up and given a little chance, said another scout at the time of the trade. He always did well in the minor leagues, but never produced. He never impressed the Dodgers enough to keep him in the big leagues.
Hes a big power-type guy. Thats a big part of his game, said a third scout. I think eventually hes going to be OK. I know the Dodgers had some situations with him where if he doesnt hit, he wants to start changing things, and they were trying to be patient with him doing that. But I think hes going to get everything straightened out, and hes going to be a pretty good offensive-type guy. Hes a playable defensive guy. Hes one of those guys, if he hits and hits for power, his defense is going to be good enough. Hes more of a fringe defender in the outfield. But if he hits 40 home runs, then hes a very good outfielder. I think hes got some promise to him.