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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
Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
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(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


 
 
 
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