The Los Angeles Dodgers are planning to start Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames in left field to open the 2011 season. 

No, that’s not a typo. 

It is the same Jay Gibbons who was out of the league in 2008 and 2009 only to resurface in Los Angeles in 2010 and hit .280 with five HR in 75 AB.  It is the same Marcus Thames who has never had more than 348 AB in a season and is a career .248 hitter.

In regards to Gibbons, obviously it’s a tiny sample size and impossible to draw any conclusions from.  The fact of the matter is that Gibbons hasn’t posted a usable season since 2005 (.277, 26 HR) and, at 34 years old, it’s nearly impossible to expect any significant production in 2011.  In fact, it would appear much more likely that he falls flat on his face.

Thames has power, but strikes out a ton (28.1 percent over his 1,946 AB career) making it nearly impossible to hit for a usable option.  He’s never had the opportunity to play full time and is much better suited as part of a platoon. 

But is a Gibbons/Thames pairing better than what they may have elsewhere?

The Dodgers have a pair of in-house options who could emerge by year’s end and give their current platoon a run for their money.  Let’s take a look:

Trayvon Robinson
He spent the year at Double-A in 2010, hitting .300 with nine HR, 57 RBI, 80 R and 38 SB.  The 10th-round draft pick in 2005 has slowly made his way through the Dodgers system and now, at 23, appears primed to take the next step.

He has the potential to be a dynamic top-of-the-order hitter, with 85 stolen bases over the past two seasons.  However, he needs to improve his contact rate if he has any intention of making an impact.  In 2010, he struck out 125 times versus 73 walks.  It was his fourth straight season of at least 104 Ks and the first time he has walked more than 60 times in a year.

To get an idea, just look at his strikeout rates over the past four years:

  • 2007: 30.05%
  • 2008: 23.69%
  • 2009: 27.13%
  • 2010: 28.80%

It’s impossible to be a usable leadoff type option with that type of strikeout rate.  Robinson needs to be able to get on base regularly and if he isn’t making contact, it is just not going to happen.  With the fear of his strikeout rate further increasing as he moves up against tougher competition (he hasn’t played above Double-A), he appears to be a longshot at this point.  He has the speed, but needs to develop the rest of his game early in 2011.

Jerry Sands
He split time between Single and Double-A in 2010 hitting .301 with 35 HR, 93 RBI, 102 R and 18 SB.  The SB total is probably a bit deceiving and I wouldn’t put any stock in it.  His ticket to the major leagues is his power, and he showed it off in a big way.

He was consistently good at each level he stopped at in 2010, helping to give hope that he can maintain the power as he climbs the ladder:

  • Single-A: .333, 18 HR, 46 RBI in 243 AB
  • Double-A: .270, 17 HR, 47 RBI in 259 AB

Like Robinson, he also could have a problem with strikeouts as he moves to the upper-levels, though his rate was actually better in 2010. 

At Double-A he posted a 23.94 percent rate, and while that is concerning, his power certainly helps to offset it.  Yes, there is a concern that he may hit for a lower average than fantasy owners would prefer, but if he hits a ton of home runs it is something that we can easily overlook.  Plus, you have to think that his walk rate (12.7 percent) gives hope that he can keep the strikeouts under control.

Power hitters are no longer a certainty in baseball, so someone that can bring 30-plus HR power to the table is always going to have value.  The 28th-round draft pick in 2008 easily could overtake Gibbons/Thames for the LF job, or maybe the Dodgers will get tired of the light-hitting James Loney filling 1B (Sands has seen significant time both at 1B and in the outfield in the minors). 

Sands should start the year at Triple-A and if he makes a statement early, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the outfield before long.

What are your thoughts on these two players?  Who do you think has the better chance of reaching the major leagues in 2011?  Would you target either in fantasy formats?

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Make sure to check out our other Prospect Reports as we wrap up 2010 and head towards 2011:


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