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The Dodgers' off-the-field exploits -- namely the divorce case and team ownership dispute between Frank and Jamie McCourt -- drew attention away from a mediocre season in 2010. In Joe Torre's final turn as the team's manager, the Dodgers finished two games under .500 and only one step above the National League West cellar.
The team made a number of low-key moves this offseason, re-signing midseason acquisition Ted Lilly and picking up fifth starter Jon Garland to fill out the rotation. Juan Uribe replaces Ryan Theriot at second base, while Rod Barajas gives the Dodgers a new face behind the plate, with Russell Martin opting to sign with the Yankees. The dugout has a new face as well, as Don Mattingly takes over as manager.
One item has yet to be checked off the Dodgers' to-do list: replace Manny Ramirez. Since his departure last August, left field has been patched together by a committee, and it appears that will be the case again this year. Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn and Marcus Thames should all get a chance at playing time and be Ramirez's short-term successor, at least until prospects Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson arrive.
Without the impact of a major offseason signing or trade, the Dodgers will rely on several players to have bounce-back years in order for them to contend. Matt Kemp's ride to superstardom hit a bump last year, as his batting average slid from .297 to .249. The normally-steady Casey Blake started to show his age, while rising star Jonathan Broxton blew seven of 29 save chances and lost the closer's role for the final two months of the season. A breakout from 26-year-old James Loney wouldn't hurt either, though three straight years of stagnant production suggest that may be a pipe dream.
The Dodgers' deep rotation and bullpen will keep them in most games, but even with All-Star Andre Ethier and a potentially-resurgent Kemp in the lineup, a sputtering offense could leave the Dodgers bluer than ever.
Sleeper ... Rafael Furcal, SS
Furcal is certainly a playing-time risk, as he has failed to appear in more than 100 games in two of the last three seasons. He has been dogged by back and hamstring injuries, but he is heading into the 2011 campaign healthy and rested. He still has good power for a shortstop and can still provide Fantasy owners with 20 or more steals. Ultimately, other middle-of-the-pack options, such as Yunel Escobar and Starlin Castro, may be better bets to stay healthy, but few can offer the speed-power combination that Furcal can. He will finish among the top 10 shortstops in Fantasy as long as he can stay in the lineup.
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Bust ... Jonathan Broxton, RP
A year ago, Broxton was coming off a sensational season that gave him the appearance of being an elite closer. In retrospect, 2009 was more of an aberration than a breakout for him. Last year, he didn't sustain the large spikes in velocity and strikeout rate that he enjoyed the year before, and he went back to being very hittable on balls in play. While his .375 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) should recede somewhat, Broxton could still be a liability in the WHIP category, even though he will likely strike out more than a batter per inning. With Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen looming as ninth-inning options, Broxton will be treading on thin ice yet again as the Dodgers' closer.
Bounce-back player ... Matt Kemp, OF
Over his first two full seasons, Kemp established himself as a player on the rise, holding his batting average and stolen base total steady while increasing his power. Last year, the power continued to increase, but that was overshadowed by huge hits to his average and steals. Kemp is still only 26, just old enough to be entering the peak of his career. It's not unusual for a young player to take a step back before plateauing into his best years. There is no reason to think that Kemp will repeat or do worse than his 2010 performance and 2011 provides owners with a great buy-low opportunity. Kemp's collapse last year was neither complete nor part of a long-term trend. Expect Kemp to produce like a No. 2 Fantasy outfielder, though you may be able to draft him as your No. 3.
|Projected Lineup||Pos.||Projected Rotation|
|1||Rafael Furcal||SS||1||Clayton Kershaw||LH|
|2||Matt Kemp||CF||2||Chad Billingsley||RH|
|3||Andre Ethier||RF||3||Ted Lilly||LH|
|4||James Loney||1B||4||Hiroki Kuroda||RH|
|5||Casey Blake||3B||5||Jon Garland||RH|
|6||Juan Uribe||2B||Alt||Vicente Padilla||RH|
|7||Jay Gibbons||LF|| |
|8||Rod Barajas||C||CL||Jonathan Broxton||RH|
|Top bench options||SU||Hong-Chih Kuo||LH|
|R||Jamey Carroll||SS/2B||RP||Matt Guerrier||RH|
|R||Tony Gwynn||OF||RP||Kenley Jansen||RH|
|R||Marcus Thames||OF||RP||Carlos Monasterios||RH|
|Minors stats are amazing for someone who didn't play baseball until four years ago. Should make big-league debut in '11.|
|Power translated from low minors to Double-A. Could get a shot in L.A. outfield later this year.|
|Flamethrower impressed in big league debut. If Broxton struggles, he will enter the closer picture.|
|Switch-hitter has great leadoff skills, despite a high K-rate. Could make his big league debut in 2011.|
|5||Rubby De La Rosa||22||SP||Double-A||Double-A|
|Future role is unclear, but we could see his triple-digit fastball in the majors sometime this year.|
|Best of the rest: Zach Lee, SP; Chris Withrow, SP; Allen Webster, SP; Scott Elbert, RP; Ethan Martin, SP; Aaron Miller, SP; Leon Landry, OF; Kyle Russell, OF; Garrett Gould, SP; Brian Cavazos-Galvez, OF; James Baldwin, OF; Jake Lemmerman, SS; Jonathan Garcia, OF; Javier Solano, RP; Matt Magill, SP; Ivan DeJesus, 2B; and Josh Lindblom, RP.|
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