The Detroit Tigers are going to rely on Donny Sands more than expected.
Eric Haase is currently running the platoon of Detroit Tigers catchers. He is slated to be the team's backstop come Opening Day, handling the workload behind the dish. But, as the backup, there is a good chance that Donny Sands could find a spot on the roster.
He may wind up coming into the 2023 season as the team's backup catcher for the Detroit Tigers. He's still new to the organization, so Spring Training will be his chance to cement his role. He will have some competition, but it seems like he might be able to win the backup job to start the 2023 season.
The Tigers will rock with Haase as the primary option, and it's not to contest that, but Sands will battle for that number two spot. The thing working in his favor is Jake Rogers and his recovery from Tommy John surgery that has kept him off the field.
He has since recovered and is looking like he's going to battle for the spot, but Sands could bring a fresh look that intrigues the Tigers to award him the spot. Spring ball and their performance will have a big say in this, but Sands seems like the front-runner in my eyes.
The Tigers acquired Sands in the trade that sent Gregory Soto to Philadelphia, and the expectation now is that he will be able to work to be a part of the team's long-term plans moving forward. He made his major league debut and played in all three games last year for the Phillies.
He's still looking for his first hit, so Tigers fans should be able to cheer him on once he picks up that milestone in his next chance at the big leagues. But in 2022, Sands spent most of his time with the Phillies Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley, where he slashed .309/.413/.428 with nine doubles and five home runs to total 34 RBI.
He's one of those hitters who can grind out at-bats with quality swing decisions. He draws walks with a patient look in the batters' box, but he's also not afraid to attack and do damage. His power tool has come around, and the Phillies have seen him emerge with the upside of a solid contact hitter with sneaky pop.
He's got a physical look with a barrel wrap as he sets up in the batters' box. He loads up with a leg kick to drive through the ball. He separates well, and as he works through the zone he's shown the ability to control the barrel quite well. Has a bit of a Josh Donaldson look to him. He's a big hand-load guy. The hands start high and get into a hitting position as he loads with the legs. It reminds me of Blue Jays-era Donaldson at the point he reaches the top of his leg lift.
The point is Sands has tools in the batters' box, and the high walk rates with strikeout rates to match make him an intriguing look, plus he fits the Scott Harris build. It's not to say he will hit .300 in the big leagues as he did in Triple-A, but Sands has a shot to hit and hit well in the big leagues as the best-case scenario.
Now, we all know that the best-case scenario never pans out, but Sands is a player that seems like he should be able to show off some bat-to-ball and hit balls hard. Expect the average to be up and some extra-base hits to flow in as well. He's smooth defensively with quality receiving, adding some value there.
The Tigers will see what he can do this Spring, but he might vault himself into the backup catching role with a strong spring performance.