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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
White Sox SP John Danks wins in sloppy outing
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:03 pm ET) White Sox starting pitcher John Danks wasn't as crisp as he would have liked during his start against the Yankees on Saturday, but he still came out on top.

Danks allowed just one run on three hits in 5 2/3 inning, but he tied a season-high with four walks. The walks didn't get him into trouble because he also recorded eight strikeouts.

With the win, Danks improved to 6-8 on the year. He has a 4.80 ERA in 114 1/3 innings this season.


Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo homers in fourth straight day Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:03 pm ET) Has there been a hotter hitter over the last four days than Anthony Rizzo? The Cubs' star first baseman went 2 for 4 in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Brewers. He slugged a three-run home run, his fourth home run in four days.

Rizzo has been on fire in those four days, batting a ridiculous .533 with the four homers and nine RBI in that stretch. 


Brewers' Matt Garza gives up three-run HR in loss on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:00 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Matt Garza posted a quality start on Saturday, but lost for the fifth time in his last seven outings in the 4-2 defeat to the Cubs. Garza allowed three runs on four hits over six innings of work. He walked four and struck out five, throwing 70 of his 107 pitches for strikes.

Garza (5-12, 5.17 ERA) had trouble with his command in this one, but was able to limit the damage against him. The one mistake he made came on a three-run home run by the red-hot Anthony Rizzo, accounting for all three runs against Garza.

Despite the fairly decent outing on Saturday, Garza has really been struggling this year. Over his past six starts, the veteran right-hander is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA.


Cubs RP Tommy Hunter gets two-out save in team debut
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:54 pm ET) New Cubs reliever Tommy Hunter made his team debut on Saturday, and recorded a two-out save in the 4-2 win over the Brewers. The save was the first of the season for Hunter, who was acquired from the Orioles on Friday.

Hunter was summoned with one out in the ninth when Jason Motte put a runner on second. Hunter allowed that run to score on an RBI groundout, and then retired the final batter to close out the game.

It was Hunter's first save since May 2014, when he recorded 11 saves for the Orioles. 


Pirates SP Gerrit Cole comes up short in loss to Reds
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:51 pm ET) Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole didn't have enough to come up with a win during his start against the Reds on Saturday.

Cole tossed five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits. When he had his pitches going, he flashed dominance -- he recorded eight strike outs to just one walk.

With the loss, the All-Star falls to 14-5 on the season with a 2.36 ERA.


Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks shuts down Brewers bats for fifth win
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:50 pm ET) Cubs young right-hander Kyle Hendricks was in fine form in his outing against the Brewers on Saturday. Hendricks allowed one run on four hits over seven-plus innings in the 4-2 victory. He walked two and struck out six, throwing 68 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Hendricks (5-5, 3.67 ERA) was on top of his game in this one, allowing his only run in the fourth inning, with his team already leading by four runs. 

This was a solid bounceback effort for Hendricks, who had allowed nine runs in 11 innings over his previous two starts. 


Reds closer Aroldis Chapman notches 22nd save of the season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:45 pm ET) Reds closer Aroldis Chapman wasn't as crisp as we have become accustomed to on Saturday against the Pirates, but he still managed to pick up his 22nd save of the season.

Despite allowing three hits, a walk and a run, Chapman struck out two batters and closed out his team's 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. He now has a 1.81 ERA in 44 2/3 innings this season.


Reds SP Raisel Iglesias strikes out five in win over Pirates
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:43 pm ET) Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias enjoyed a pretty solid start against the Pirates on Saturday.

Iglesias limited his mistakes during the 6 2/3 innings he faced off against Pittsburgh, and it paid off as he picked up his second win of the season. He allowed two runs on four hits, two walks and a home run, but he did manage to strike out five batters.

With the win, Iglesias improved to 2-3 on the year with a 5.13 ERA.


Astros pitcher Vincent Velasquez optioned to Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:42 pm ET) Astros young pitcher Vincent Velasquez is headed back to Triple-A Corpus Christi. Velasquez was optioned down to the minors after pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in Saturday's 9-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

Manager A.J. Hinch said Velasquez will remain in the bullpen at Triple-A, as he will look to get more innings under his belt before returning to Houston. 

The move was made to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for the newly-acquired right-hander Mike Fiers. 


Astros SP Dallas Keuchel picks up 13th win on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:39 pm ET) Astros ace Dallas Keuchel benefited from nine runs of support on Saturday, as he beat the Diamondbacks 9-2. Keuchel allowed two runs on two hits over six strong innings. He walked three and struck out eight, throwing 65 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Keuchel (13-5, 2.35 ERA) allowed both of his runs in the second inning, actually putting the team down 2-1. But the Astros' bats powered up and rallied for five runs in the fourth inning to back their starter.

This was a good bounceback effort for the 2015 All-Star, after he had allowed five runs on 10 hits in his previous start. 


 
 
 
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