The Pirates signed reliever Jason Grilli to a two year, $6.75 million deal back on December 12th, so the subsequent trade of closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox really was not a big surprise as he had been rumored to be on the trade block for most of the offseason. The Pirates did end up trading Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt to the Red Sox for outfielder Jerry Sands, reliever Mark Melancon, pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Ivan DeJesus, Jr., a deal that was officially announced last week.
Sands is probably the key name in this deal for fantasy owners in 2013, as he has a chance to see regular playing time in Pittsburgh. But, he will have to hit better than he has in his two previous chances in the big leagues, and beat out Travis Snider and/or Garret Jones in the battle for the right field and first base jobs. It is also possible that he platoons in right field with Travis Snider and first base with Garret Jones. The left field job is Starling Marte's to lose, as he is a center fielder displaced due to the presence of All Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Here is Pirates GM Neil Huntington on Sands after the deal was finalized, courtesy of MLB.com
"Jerry Sands has impressed our scouts with his well-rounded tools package, highlighted by his ability to command the strike zone as a hitter and drive the ball for extra-base hit potential," Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said upon announcement of the deal. "Additionally, his defensive versatility will increase his opportunity to contribute to [us] in the near term as well as in the years to come."
And here is more from Huntington on Sands courtesy of Rob Biertempfel from Trib Total Media :
“He‘ll be part of the competition for our left- and right-field spots,” Huntington said. “Or, he could be an option at first base if Garrett Jones is in right field.”
Sands, who turned 25 years of age back in late September, hit .296-.375-.524 with 26 HRs, 84 runs and 107 RBI at AAA Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League in 2012. You don't need me to tell you that the PCL is home to several hitter friendly ball parks, including Albuquerque, but Sands did lead the PCL in RBI and was third in home runs last season, so he does possess solid power. He struck out in just over 20% of his plate appearances last season, and walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances, so his plate discipline is solid for a power hitter.
In 2011, Sands hit .278-.344-.586 with 29 HRs, 78 runs and 88 RBI in AAA, so he has nothing more to prove in the minors. What he does need to prove, to the Pirates and fantasy owners, is the ability to hit for power in the big leagues. That could prove to be a challenge playing his home games in PNC Park, as the park suppressed home runs by 32% for right handed hitters and 37% for all hitters in 2012, making it the fourth hardest ball park to hit a home run.
Heading into 2013 fantasy drafts, Sands is not likely to be drafted in mixed leagues, but should be a late round, or $1-2 hitter, in NL only league drafts. Assuming he wins the every day right field job, he should be able to hit around .250 with double digit home runs, with a chance for more.