Dodgers prospect Jerry Sands
had a breakout season in 2010. A 25th-round pick out of Catawba (N.C.) College in the 2008 Draft, the right-handed-hitting slugger began the year at Class A Great Lakes, jumped straight to Double-A Chattanooga in June and finished with a strong performance in the elite Arizona Fall League
Sands bashed 35 homers, tied for second-most in the Minor Leagues and racked up awards throughout the season. He was named Midwest League Player of the Week three times in the opening month, earned Top Star honors at the Midwest League All-Star Game and was the Southern League's Player of the Week in late June after homering in four of his first five Double-A games.
The Dodgers named the North Carolina native their Minor League Player of the Year and recently invited him to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster player. MiLB.com spoke with him as he attended the team's Winter Development Minicamp.
MiLB.com: Between the regular season and the Arizona Fall League, you played in a career-high 151 games. What have you been doing -- besides relaxing -- since the AFL ended?
Sands: Yeah, it was a long year, but the ultimate goal is to get to where you're playing a 162-game season. I did a lot of preparation last offseason that really paid off for me, and I'm continuing to work hard this winter.
Right now, I'm at the Dodgers' Winter Development Program in Los Angeles. We had a workout in Dodger Stadium and have been meeting with former big-name Dodgers like Maury Wills, Eric Karros and Tommy Lasorda. It's been great.
MiLB.com: Were you surprised that the Dodgers promoted you straight from Great Lakes to Double-A?
Sands: I was a little surprised, but I was hoping it would happen. You want to face that level of competition to make yourself better.
MiLB.com: What was the biggest difference between Midwest League pitching and Southern League pitching?
Sands: The pitchers' consistency, mainly. The Double-A pitchers are better at hitting their spots -- younger pitchers might have a plan of how they want to pitch you but are less consistent about making those pitches. For me, it was tougher to get out of slumps in Double-A. The pitchers make adjustments and you have to do that as a hitter, too.
MiLB.com: During the season, what do you do to unwind between games and travel and practice?
Sands: (Laughs) I'm a pretty boring guy -- I don't have many hobbies. When I was in school I played just about every sport there was, but these days I just hang out with the guys, maybe play some video games. I tend to read a book every once in a while.
MiLB.com: You were a 25th-round pick out of a Division II school a couple years ago, and now some enthusiastic fans are calling you a possible replacement for Manny Ramirez. Has all the attention brought any pressure for you?
Sands: I don't really feel pressure -- all I can do is do my thing and play hard every day. It was maybe a little easier coming out of a smaller school and not having all those expectations right away. I'm not the kind of guy who needs that attention, but if the opportunity comes I'll be the same person as ever.
MiLB.com: You played mostly first base at Great Lakes and mostly in the outfield -- plus one game at third base -- at Chattanooga. Where do you feel most comfortable?
Sands: I was drafted as an outfielder and am probably most comfortable there, just because that's where I've played the most. I'm feeling more comfortable in the infield, though. I've been working on getting the footwork right and everything -- it feels more natural all the time. It's a good challenge.
MiLB.com: You were second in the Dodgers system in walks last season. Is that something you look for or just a byproduct of being patient at the plate?
Sands: It's a little bit of both, I think. I'm not the kind of hitter that puts the ball in play every time -- I've had my share of strikeouts -- so I try to stay patient and go after pitches I can handle. Seeing more pitches and getting on base are positives.
MiLB.com: What coaches -- in school or the pros -- have had the biggest influence on you?
Sands: I grew up in a small community, so often my baseball coach was also my football coach. Some of those people were big influences, and my parents are my life coaches. My college baseball coach, Jim Gantt, helped a lot in the maturing process.
MiLB.com: At 90-49, Great Lakes had the best record in the Minors last season. What was it like being part of that club during the first half?
Sands: It was great, definitely a lot of fun. We might not have been the best team, but we knew how to win. There was a lot of intensity in the locker room. We had a group of guys that were great to be around and that you really wanted to play hard for every day.
MiLB.com: I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but what's your at-bat music?
Sands: (Laughs) Yeah, it's "Enter Sandman." That's been my nickname since I was a kid.