Dodgers Jerry Sands off to Fast Start in Dominican Winter League


Awhile back Lasorda’s Lair had an article profiling the Dodgers prospects taking place in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. However that is not the only baseball currently being played involving young Dodgers prospects.

The Caribbean Winter Leagues began play recently with 4 leagues comprised of various numbered teams. Mexico’s 8 team Liga Mexicana del Pacifico, Puerto Rico’s Liga de Beisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico comprised of 7 teams, Venezuela’s Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional which consists of 8 teams, and the Dominican Republic’s Liga de Beisbol Dominicano which is made up of 6 teams, including the Tigres del Licey, home to Dodgers top prospect Jerry Sands.

So far Licey, who is managed by ex-Dodger Rafael Landestoy, is off to a 2-and-4 start, losing again today 8-to-1, with Sands having his worst game of the short season, going 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts. Prior to today, Sands had hit in 5 of the 6 games he’d played, with 2 multi-hit games, including a homer. He has stuck out 6 times though to go along with 3 walks and 2 RBI through his 6 games.

Licey’s roster is a combination of young prospects like Sands, the Padres Simon Castro, Angel Beltre of the Rangers, and the Mariners Carlos Triunfel. Mixed in with the youngsters are MLB vets like Ubaldo Jimenez of the Indians, and older vets such as former Dodgers Willy Aybar, Angel Berroa, and notorious water cooler hater Carlos Perez. It truly is a unique mix.

It is also an opportunity for Sands to gain valuable experience, playing against solid competition, in a highly competitive and raucous environment. Sands has been the teams cleanup hitter playing both left field and 1st base.

There are several other prominent names competing in the Dominican leagues on both the veteran and prospect side such as: former Dodger Elisaul Pimentel who was traded to the Royals for Scott Podsednik, the Indians Fausto Carmona, Rockies catching prospect Wilin Rosario, Astros Brett Wallace and Brian Bogusevic a former 1st round pick, the Giants Brandon Belt, Julio Borbon of the Rangers, Anthony Rizzo of the Padres, the A’s Brandon Allen, the Orioles Felix Pie, Starling Marte of the Pirates, and Carlos Peguero of the Mariners, just to name a few.

Dodgers competing in the Dominican league, include Chattanooga Lookouts teammates Alfredo Silverio who hit his first homer tonight for Toros del Este, and Elian Herrera who is playing for Aguilas Cibanes.  JD Closser who spent the past few seasons in AAA Albuquerque, and Eugenio Velez, who actually doubled tonight accomplishing something he was unable to do for the entire season while with the Dodgers, get a single base hit.

I’m probably missing a couple of players but that’s who I came across at first glance. Obviously Jerry Sands and Alfredo Silverio are the top 2 prospects to keep an eye on in the Dominican League.

After a quick glance through the other leagues rosters several other Dodgers, both past and present are participating in the other Caribbean leagues. In Mexico Chattanooga pitchers Javier Solano and Paul Koss, join Albuquerque pitcher Randy Keisler as participants in the  Mexican league.

In Venezuela Miguel Sulburan an 17 year old pitcher from the DSL Dodgers, Ronny Lugo an OF from the AZL Dodgers, Carlos Monasterios, Mike Parisi, John Lindsey, Alberto Bastardo, Jon Link, Russell Mitchell, and Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers 2011 Minor League Hitter of the year are all participating.

The Puerto Rician rosters have not yet been announced.

This is actually an outstanding opportunity for Sands and Van Slyke to stay in baseball shape and prepare themselves for the upcoming season. For Sands he appears to have a spot secured on the Dodgers roster, and if he can play anywhere close to the level he did after his return to the Dodgers in September, then he may be able to finally bring some stability to the Dodgers left field quandary.

For Van Slyke he seems to be in a similar position that Sands was last year. Coming off of a monster breakout season, albeit he being old for the level he played, a trip to AAA Albuquerque and the opportunity to put up more ridiculous numbers in that hitters paradise will seemingly do little to improve his rising stock.  But his chances of earning a spot on the Dodgers final 25 man roster seem remote at best.

However, something tells me this will be a very action packed off-season for the Dodgers. They have an overabundance of 23 to 25 year old outfield prospects, as well as an immensely talented group of young power arms who project as valuable late inning members of the bullpen. Shawn Tolleson, Steven Ames, Cole St. Clair and Josh Wall just to name a few.

On the starting pitching side Zach Lee looks like the next big-time starting pitcher, after an impressive 1st season in the minors, and now that he’s devoted his talents full-time to pitching by not playing football anymore, his ceiling appears to be very high. Former 1st round picks Chris WithrowEthan Martin and Aaron Miller have yet to impress, with Withrow and Martin seeminglyregressing the past 2 years.

With Kershaw on the roster the Dodgers have a clear number 1 starter, but if Lee follows a similar path as Kershaw, Dodgers fans could see him in Chavez Ravine as soon as 2013.

Lee threw 109 innings in 2011, Kershaw threw 121 in 2007 his first full season, moving up to AA, after throwing only 36 innings in rookie ball the prior year. By 2008 Kershaw threw just over 60 innings in AA, before being promoted to the Dodgers where he started 21 games and was actually human, finishing the year with a 4.78 ERA.

Obviously the Dodgers need to clear up their ownership quandary, and determine if Ned Colletti will be making those key baseball decisions this off-season. However, something tells me the Dodgers have some kind of trade they are going to pull off, and I don’t know why but the name Andre Ethier keeps coming to mind when I think about possible Dodgers trades. I would hope to see Ethier remain in Dodger blue, but for some reason I just have a strange feeling he wont.

Regardless there are still plenty of Dodgers still playing baseball, some of them key prospects who are worth keeping a close eye on. The best way to do that is to follow Top Prospect Alert Minor League Blog on Twitter, they provide a a wealth of information, including live updates and daily recaps from all of the winter leagues as well as the Arizona Fall League.

Another fantastic site for prospect news is FanSided’s own Seedlings to Stars. They have some of our networks top writers working for the site and they produce a ridiculous amount of quality content daily. If you are a prospect junkie S2S should be part of your daily Minor League reading.

And best of luck to all Dodgers prospects participating in their various leagues, particularly good health. No more oblique strains like the one that cost Alex Castellanos the rest of his Arizona Fall League, and even more unfortunate for him is the fact that he was destroying AFL pitching and making and early run at the MVP of the league.