Baseball America's top 10 prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization for 2011:
Dee Gordon SS
Zach Lee RHP
Rubby de la Rosa RHP
Chris Withrow RHP
Allen Webster RHP
Jerry Sands OF/1B
Scott Elbert LHP
Kenley Jansen RHP
Ethan Martin RHP
Trayvon Robinson OF
Reigning Los Angeles Dodgers minor league player of the year Jerry Sands is expected to start the upcoming season with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
Yet if his performance in big-league camp is any indication, Sands may not be at the Class AA level for long.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder continued his rapid ascent within the organization by hitting a team-leading .364 with two home runs and five RBIs in 16 spring-training games before getting reassigned to minor league camp Thursday night. Sands is coming off a 2010 season in which he hit a combined .301 with 35 homers and 18 steals with Great Lakes of the Class A Midwest League and the Lookouts.
"He had a really good fall league, and now he's had a really good major league camp," Dodgers player development director De Jon Watson said. "This is a really sound baseball player with a really good approach, and he understands who he is as a young man. The way he has carried himself is what we expected internally.
"We're just excited for him that he's having this success and had the opportunity to show our major league manager what he's capable of doing."
The Dodgers held their first minor league games Friday and will break camp April 4.
Sands, selected by Los Angeles in the 25th round of the 2008 draft out of Catawba College, is rated by Baseball America as the organization's top power hitter. The publication also projects him as the starting Dodgers left fielder by 2014, alongside center fielder Matt Kemp and right fielder Andre Ethier.
Los Angeles ranked next to last in homers last year among National League teams, so the reality of Sands playing in the majors may occur sooner than later.
"I guess it depends on what's going on," first-year Dodgers manager Don Mattingly recently told the Los Angeles Times. "If we're getting production, it gives him an opportunity to develop. If there may be a need and you're not afraid of calling him up, at that point you make a decision."
The Lookouts could break camp with Sands and the organization's top pitcher of 2010. Rubby de la Rosa, who also split last season between Great Lakes and Chattanooga, claimed that honor after finishing 3-1 with a 1.41 earned run average in eight starts with the Lookouts.
De la Rosa is projected by Baseball America to be in the 2014 starting rotation for the Dodgers along with Clayton Kershaw, Zach Lee, Chad Billingsley and Chris Withrow. Lee was the organization's No. 1 pick last year and signed for $5.25 million over five years after turning down the chance to play quarterback at LSU, while Withrow is expected back with the Lookouts after struggling to a 4-9 record and 5.97 ERA a year ago.
Shortstop Dee Gordon and center fielder Trayvon Robinson played for the Lookouts throughout last season and began this spring in big-league camp before being sent down Wednesday. Gordon, who has been ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 organizational prospect for a second straight year, hit .277 a year ago and led the Southern League with 53 stolen bases but also with 37 errors.
Robinson hit .300 last season with 57 RBIs and had 38 steals.
"Both guys are interesting in their skill sets, and it will be one of those meetings with the staff where we sit down and talk about what will be best for their overall development," Watson said. "There is a chance both could come back to Chattanooga, and there is a chance that both could go up. It's still just awfully early."
The Lookouts will play their annual exhibition game against Chattanooga State at AT&T Field on Tuesday, April 5, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. The Tigers are currently 21-3 and ranked fourth in NJCAA Division I.
Chattanooga opens its Southern League schedule at home on April 7 against the Tennessee Smokies, also with a 7:15 start.