Joel Hanrahan was placed on the disabled list in Boston yesterday with right forearm tightness. I’ve pointed out in the past that the Hanrahan trade is looking good, simply because of how Hanrahan’s value has plummeted, Mark Melancon has rebounded to a top reliever, and Stolmy Pimentel has gotten off to a great start in Altoona. The fact that the Pirates got four years of Melancon for one year of Hanrahan tips the trade in their favor. Not only do they have a better reliever this year, but they have that reliever for three more years, and they saved $7 M, which allowed them to sign Francisco Liriano. When you add Stolmy Pimentel to the mix, the trade only looks better.
But what about the other two players in the deal? Melancon has been a huge success so far in the bullpen, and Pimentel has been one of the best stories in the minor league system this year. It’s easy to forget the other guys in that deal with that sort of production. The Pirates did get Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus in return, with Sands being viewed as one of the top pieces, and De Jesus being more of a throw in. Both have been playing for Indianapolis this year, and the results have been mixed.
Sands has moved around a lot in the last year. He was with the Dodgers last year, then was traded to Boston in the deal that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers. He didn’t even get a chance to play with Boston, since the deal happened so late in the season, and since Boston flipped him over the off-season to the Pirates.
Sands had very little chance of making the majors this year. The Pirates had a crowded outfield, and Travis Snider (out of options) and Jose Tabata (out of options, contract) had the inside track for the open roster spots. He was pretty much a backup option incase someone in the majors didn’t work out. So far, it’s a good thing that Snider is doing his part against right-handed pitching, because Sands is the one that isn’t working out.
After he was demoted to minor league Spring Training, I didn’t see a lot of promise in Sands. He has always been a guy who could hit for power. Some of those power numbers came in the very hitter friendly PCL, but he had power before reaching that level. I didn’t see that power this year before the start of the regular season, and he hasn’t shown any of that during the season.
Sands is hitting for a .144/.260/.167 line in 90 at-bats this year. There’s no silver lining to that. He’s been bad against left-handers, right-handers, at home, on the road, and he hasn’t shown signs of turning it around in recent games.
Sands hit for a .296/.375/.524 line in 452 at-bats last year in the PCL. There is the PCL factor to consider, but that doesn’t explain the total lack of hitting this year. I don’t want to speculate on why Sands isn’t hitting this year. I will say that it’s a good thing Melancon and Pimentel are doing so well, because this part of the trade doesn’t seem to be working out.
Ivan De Jesus
He doesn’t have a lot of upside, but De Jesus has quietly been putting up some strong numbers. On the season he has a .351/.403/.491 line in 57 at-bats. De Jesus lost playing time when Josh Harrison went down to Triple-A, as the Pirates were starting Harrison and Jordy Mercer in the middle infield spots. De Jesus has been getting more playing time recently with Mercer in the majors, and he’s taking advantage of that time. In his last ten games he has a .433/.486/.633 line in 30 at-bats.
De Jesus was also traded in that Boston/Los Angeles deal. In the off-season he was waived, then outrighted to Triple-A, which showed that every team in the majors passed on him when they could have had him for free. He used to be a strong defensive middle infielder, but his defense hasn’t been the same since a broken leg in 2009. He is showing some hitting skills in his limited time in the International League, both last year with Boston and this year with the Pirates.
De Jesus looks like he could be a good backup middle infielder in the majors, although he seems to be low on the depth charts with the Pirates. The strong hitting could help him out, but the Pirates have also been seeing strong hitting in Triple-A from Mercer and Harrison, who both seem to be ahead of De Jesus.
The Other Side – Brock Holt
I heard from one scout during Spring Training that Brock Holt was better than any of the middle infield options the Pirates had. I’ve always liked Holt as a hitter, but never really thought he could make it as a starting shortstop in the majors. So I was surprised to see that he is currently hitting for a .185/.269/.185 line in 81 at-bats in Pawtucket. Just like Sands, there’s no silver linings to be found in the stat line. That’s surprising from a guy who hit for a .432/.476/.537 line in 95 at-bats last year in Triple-A, then went on to hit for a .292/.329/.354 line in 65 major league at-bats.
In the case of Holt and Sands, I think they’re both underperforming their potential right now. However, these current numbers raise the question that they might not be as good as their numbers indicated coming into the season.