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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Los Angeles Dodgers

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The Dodgers' offseason has been more notable for the team's ongoing bankruptcy and pending sale than for its personnel moves. Even when there has been actual baseball-related news, Dodger fans have been give little reason to improve their blue mood. Center fielder Matt Kemp narrowly lost out on the National League Most Valuable Player award to Ryan Braun. Rotation mainstay Hiroki Kuroda bolted for the Yankees, even after insisting that if he couldn't work out a deal with the Dodgers he would rather return to Japan than play for another major league team. The Dodgers also failed to retain a pair of injury-plagued relievers -- Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo -- who had nonetheless been integral parts of the team's bullpen in recent years.

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In spite of the financial turmoil and uncertainty off the field and a paltry .375 team slugging percentage on the field, the Dodgers ended the year on a 25-10 run that put them three games over .500 for the season. The offense perked up slightly, but it was the pitching staff that kicked into high gear over the season's final weeks. NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw led the way, going 8-0 with a 0.96 ERA over his final nine starts.

Kershaw and Kemp will be back to lead the Dodgers in 2012, and for the most part, the supporting cast is set going into spring training. After two seasons in which he was hampered by injuries, right fielder Andre Ethier enters this season with a clean bill of health and a chance to recapture his momentum. James Loney and Juan Uribe will return and are charged with handling the infield corners, Dee Gordon will begin his first full year as the Dodgers' regular shortstop, free agent Mark Ellis will take over for power-deprived Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles at second base, and journeyman A.J. Ellis will replace Rod Barajas behind the plate. That leaves left field as the only unsettled position heading into camp, and veteran Juan Rivera and young slugger Jerry Sands are the top candidates to win the job.

Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly will join Kershaw at the top of the rotation, and Aaron Harang was signed to replace Kuroda. Meanwhile, Chris Capuano will hold down the fifth starter's job, at least until prospect Nate Eovaldi is ready to take it over or Rubby De La Rosa (Tommy John surgery) is able to make a late-season return. Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen will battle it out this spring over who gets to close out games, while former National Todd Coffey will join a mostly familiar corps of relievers.

Despite their strong finish, the Dodgers were not much of a factor last season, and a lot has to break their way for 2012 to be any different. Ethier will need to stay healthy and find his power stroke again, Gordon has to find a way to get on base more often, and with Kuroda gone, Billingsley and Lilly will need to improve their production. Maybe some of this will happen, but more will have to go in the Dodgers' favor for them to keep up with the Diamondbacks, Giants and possibly even the Rockies in the NL West.

Injury-risk sleeper...Andre Ethier, OF

The last two seasons have not been kind to Ethier, as he was derailed by a broken pinkie in 2010 and by a right knee injury last year, on which he wound up having surgery last September. Entering 2012 with his health woes behind him, Ethier may be able to pick up where he left off three years ago when he hit 31 home runs and drove in 106 runs. Even through his injuries, Ethier has shown good gap power and strike zone judgment, but his home run production has suffered. As last season wore on and Ethier's knee injury worsened, he hit a progressively higher proportion of ground balls each month. With better health, there is little reason to think he can't hit at least 25 homers. While owners may still be reluctant to trust him, Ethier should still provide a good return on a mid-round pick in standard mixed leagues.

Bust...Chad Billingsley, SP

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Billingsley had been a beacon of consistency for four years running, so when he posted his first non-winning record (11-11) and a career-high 4.21 ERA, Fantasy owners couldn't be blamed for thinking that 2011 was just a blip on the radar screen. However, Billingsley's strikeout rate has been in decline over the last three seasons, and even more concerning, his swinging strike rate plunged in both 2010 and 2011. Now that Billingsley isn't missing as many bats, his wildness is hurting him even more, and there are no signs suggesting he will improve on either his ERA or his WHIP (1.45) from a year ago. Rather than looking for Billingsley to return to being the top 20 pitcher he was just a few years ago, Fantasy owners should regard the 27-year-old as a late-round or waiver wire option.

Head-to-Head hero...James Loney, 1B

Fantasy owners who found Loney enigmatic a year ago must have found his 2011 season mind-blowing. Loney came out of the gates ice-cold, hitting .210 in April, and he didn't start hitting for power until the middle of August, whereupon he smashed four homers in an eight-game span. Loney's power binge was too short-lived to take seriously, but he showed real improvement in a different way over the latter three-fifths of the season. He cranked up his line drive rate, which enabled him to bat .322 with 24 doubles from June 10 forward. Loney has always been a decent gap hitter with strong contact skills, but his growing penchant for hitting doubles gives him some extra caché in Head-to-Head leagues. In those formats, Loney is worthy of a mid-to-late round pick, whereas it may be a stretch to target him as a late-round flier in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues.

2012 Los Angeles Dodgers Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Dee Gordon SS 1 Clayton Kershaw LH
2 Mark Ellis 2B 2 Chad Billingsley RH
3 Andre Ethier RF 3 Ted Lilly LH
4 Matt Kemp CF 4 Aaron Harang RH
5 James Loney 1B 5 Chris Capuano LH
6 Juan Rivera LF Alt Nate Eovaldi RH
7 Juan Uribe 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 A.J. Ellis C CL Javy Guerra RH
Top bench options SU Kenley Jansen RH
R Jerry Hairston 3B/OF RP Matt Guerrier RH
R Tony Gwynn OF RP Scott Elbert LH
R Adam Kennedy IF RP Todd Coffey RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Nate Eovaldi 21 SP Majors Triple-A
Hard-throwing Eovaldi has an outside shot at the rotation out of spring training. More likely he will have some work to do in Triple-A.
2 Zach Lee 20 SP Class A Class A
Lee will probably be on the fast track, but he still won't arrive until next year at the earliest. He projects to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
3 Allen Webster 21 SP Double-A Double-A
Webster, a ground ball pitcher, stumbled in Double-A and will likely repeat the level. He could reach the big leagues this year, though.
4 Tim Federowicz 24 OF Majors Triple-A
Despite a Pacific Coast League power spike, it's not clear how well Federowicz's bat will play in the majors. He could split time with A.J. Ellis sometime this year.
5 Alfredo Silverio 24 OF Double-A Triple-A
If Jerry Sands flops in his next big league trial, perhaps Silverio will get a shot in left field this year. Good long-term keeper option either way.
Best of the rest: Chris Reed, SP; Garrett Gould, SP; Chris Withrow, SP; Joc Pederson, OF; Alex Castellanos, OF;l Angel Sanchez, SP; Gorman Erickson, C; Angelo Songco, OF; Blake Smith, OF; Shawn Tolleson, RP; Aaron Miller, SP; Scott Van Slyke, OF; Jonathan Garcia, OF; Steve Ames, RP; Jake Lemmerman, SS; Stephen Fife, SP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Astros RP Luke Gregerson earns save Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:53 am ET) Astros pitcher Luke Gregerson picked up his third save of the season during Monday's 7-5 win over the Mariners.

Gregerson entered in the ninth inning with a two-run lead and only allowed one base runner before recording the save. In addition to walking one batter, Gregerson also struck out a batter.

Gregerson has yet to surrender a run in seven innings of work this season and is a perfect 3 for 3 in save opportunities.


Astros 3B Luis Valbuena hits two home runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena connected on two home runs to help lead the Astros to a 7-5 win over the Mariners on Monday.

Valbuena hit his fourth home run of the season when he connected on a solo home run off Hisashi Iwakuma during the first inning. During the eighth inning, Valbuena hit another solo shot off Danny Farquhar for his fifth homer of the season. He is now batting .244 on the season.


Mariners OF Nelson Cruz collects two hits Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz continued his hot start when he drove in two runs during the Monday's 7-5 loss to the Astros.

Cruz was 2 of 5 during the game, including a double in the fifth inning, which drove in Robinson Cano. He also struck out once. Cruz is not batting .358 on the season.


Astros SP Asher Wojciechowski fails to go five innings Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Astros pitcher Asher Wojciechowski was only able to pitch four innings during Monday's win over the Mariners.

Wojciechowski surrendered four runs on eight hits over four innings of work Monday. He also struck out six batters, while walking two in his second start of the season. Wojciechowski also failed to go past the fourth inning in his first start of the season. His ERA now stands at 6.00.

His next start is expected to be Saturday at Oakland.


Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma gives up four runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:44 am ET) Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma failed to get past the fifth inning of Monday's loss to the Astros and received a no-decision as a result.

Iwakuma surrendered four runs on five hits over 5 1/2 innings. He struck out three and walked three on 71 pitches. He has given up four runs in each of his three starts this season.

Iwakuma's troubles began in the first inning when he gave up a solo home run to Luis Valbuena. He also surrendered a solo shot to Colby Rasmus in the fifth inning and his ERA is now 6.61. Felix Hernandez remains the only Mariners starter with a win this season.

Iwakuma's next expected start will be Sunday against the Twins.


Athletics P Tyler Clippard earns first save of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) After going the first 13 games without a save opportunity, Athletics pitcher Tyler Clippard converted his first save chance of the season during the A's 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday.

Clippard entered the game with a three-run lead in the ninth inning, but walked two batters before recording the final out. He also struck out one batter. 


Athletics C Stephen Vogt hits three-run home run Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt connected on a three-run home run to help lead the Athletics to a 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday.

Vogt hit the home run off starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker in the third inning of the game. The home run was his only hit for the game. He finished the game 1 for 3 with one walk.


Athletics SP Kendall Graveman only throws 3 innings Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman started Monday's game against the Angels, but only pitched the first three innings.

Graveman started the fourth inning, but was pulled after walking the first two batters of the inning. Over three innings of work, Graveman surrendered four hits and two earned runs, while walking three batters and striking out two.

Despite only throwing three innings, Graveman was able to lower his ERA from 7.27 to 6.94, but he received a no-decision for his effort.

His next start is expected to be Saturday against the Astros.


Angels SP Matt Shoemaker struggles during Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker started to struggle during the first inning of Monday's loss to the Athletics and he never improved.

After giving up a run in the first, Shoemaker pitched a scoreless second, but ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings. Shoemaker gave up a three-run home run to Stephen Vogt in the third and failed to get out of the fourth inning after being replaced following a solo home run to Marcus Semien.

Shoemaker (2-1) surrendered five runs on seven hits over three innings. He struck out two and walked three, while taking the loss. It was the first time in his three starts this season that he failed to pitch at least six innings. His ERA rose from 4.38 to 6.46.

His next expected to start will be Saturday against the Rangers. 


Rockies' Nolan Arenado doesn't think wrist injury is serious
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado thinks he'll be able to return to the diamond for Tuesday night's game against the Padres. 

According to The Denver Post, Arenado said he started feeling soreness in his wrist just before his final at-bat against the Dodgers on Sunday. That carried over to Monday, which is why he was a late scratch in the lineup. 

“This is nothing chronic, just some soreness,” he said. “I’ve never had this before. I think I’ll be fine.”

Arenado is hitting .311 with three home runs and 10 BRI. 


 
 
 
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