Every time the Los Angeles Dodgers promote a player to the Chattanooga Lookouts, that player is closer to the big leagues than ever before.
But is there an advantage to when someone is promoted?
“It would be great to start the season right from spring training, to go with your teammates and be on the same page every day,” Lookouts hitting coach John Valentin said. “Starting out the season at a higher level is probably the best scenario, but it really shouldn’t matter.”
The Lookouts have players who reached Double-A in various stages of the season.
Shortstop Dee Gordon and first baseman/right fielder Jerry Sands had never played in Chattanooga before this year. Gordon has been with the Lookouts since the April 8 opener at AT&T Field, while Sands didn’t join the team until June 24, three games into the Southern League’s second half.
Sands has adapted remarkably well to Double-A pitching, hitting .328 with six homers and 16 RBIs through 17 games, but he admitted it’s somewhat awkward joining a new team at midseason.
“You are coming in with a group of guys that you haven’t been with all year,” he said. “Luckily, this is a great group of guys here that has brought me in, but it’s definitely an adjustment. You’re getting adjusted to new pitching on the field, and off the field, you’re dealing with the small things like finding a place to live and figuring out how to get around.”
Sands was called up from Single-A Great Lakes, where he led the Midwest League in home runs and was its all-star game’s MVP. Outfielder Kyle Russell had been tearing up the high-Single A California League when he was promoted June 7, but he has struggled with a .168 average and 44 strikeouts in 26 games.
“When you get promoted during the middle of the year, it’s because you’ve already accomplished what we thought at that level,” Lookouts manager Carlos Subero said. “If the adjustment doesn’t come quick, then at least you know you’ve got the start of next year, and hopefully it takes half a year.
“In the case of Sands, we figured he could have a successful year in the Midwest League and then maybe the Cal League, but he jumped that and is now here.”
Gordon doesn’t know whether it’s better to be promoted before a season or midway through, because he’s yet to experience the latter.
Another possibility is getting promoted in August and then starting out the next season at that same level. That happened to left fielder Andrew Lambo, who played the final eight games of the 2008 season with Jacksonville during its last year of affiliation with the Dodgers and started the past two seasons in Chattanooga.
It also happened to center fielder Trayvon Robinson, who hit .246 in the final 19 games last season with the Lookouts and is hitting .293 in his first full year with Chattanooga.
“When I was in A-ball, everybody was saying I would struggle once I got to Double-A, and I did struggle once I got here,” Robinson said. “I started heating up really late, but I just ran out of time. It gave me a lot of confidence going into this season. Any time you repeat a level, you have confidence in that you’ve done it already.”
Which helps explain why Valentin had a mid-interview change of heart.
“Coming at the end of the season, the expectations are not really high,” he said. “You’re really just getting a feel, and no one is looking at you to light the world on fire. Then the next year you’ve had a little taste of it, and you’re ready to go.
“That’s even a better scenario.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...