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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
Twins' Kris Johnson heading to Japan next season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) The Twins have sold pitcher Kris Johnson to the Hiroshima Carp, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press

The club received "mid six figures" in the deal. Johnson received just 13 1/3 innings last season, posting a 4.73 ERA. 


Phillies sign John Hester to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:24 pm ET) The Phillies have signed catcher John Hester to a minor-league deal.

Hester will receive an invite to spring training, where he'll attempt to make the 25-man roster. He spent most of last season in Triple-A. 


Report: Indians likely to exercise option on Mike Aviles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5 million option on versatile veteran Mike Aviles, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Aviles played outfield and all infield positions aside from first base last season in earning 344 at-bats. He finished the year with a stat line of .247/.273/.343 and tied a career-best with 14 stolen bases.

He was part of a lopsided deal before the 2013 season for Esmil Rogers in which the Indians also received emerging standout catcher Yan Gomes.


Bochy: Illness kept Tim Lincecum out of pregame ceremony
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(5:15 pm ET) Giants reliever Tim Lincecum declined to elaborate about his absence from pregame introductions Tuesday night, claiming he was in a back room and that he preferred not to run out in the middle of the ceremony.

Bruce Bochy, however, came up with another explanation. He said Lincecum was busy throwing up. "That's the honest truth," Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. Lincecum, who told trainer Dave Groeschner that he was feeling ill, made it out to the bullpen after the first inning.

"He said he was good to go," Bochy said. "Timmy was available."


Pirates giving prospect Josh Bell shot at first base in AFL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) The Pirates are determined to find out if premier prospect Josh Bell can fill their longstanding hole at first base. That's why he's playing that position in the Arizona Fall League.

Bell split the first 10 games at designated hitter and first base, where he has already committed four fielding errors. His unfamiliarity with the position has proven problematic.

"Getting to feel overall comfortable has been the biggest challenge," Bell told MLB.com. "I'm sure that will come with reps. When I get more playing time, I'll be able to just run with it, react. It's definitely something different. You're a lot more active. It keeps you more in the game, always on your toes."

Bell is coming off another strong year offensively, batting .325 with nine home runs, 60 RBI and nine stolen bases at the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels combined.


C Jackson Williams hooks up with Angels
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) The Angels have signed catcher and former top prospect Jackson Williams. The 28-year-old Williams finally reached the majors in late August and earned 13 at-bats with Colorado before undergoing right knee surgery.

Williams was a first-round pick of San Francisco in 2007.


Dodgers still waiting for SP Dan Haren to act on option
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) The Dodgers have confirmed that veteran right-hander Dan Haren has yet to exercise his $10 million option for 2015.

Haren certainly had other concerns Wednesday, when he underwent arthrocopic surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.

The 34 year old, who did not pitch in the playoffs, finished strong in the regular season. He yielded just 10 earned runs in his last 43 innings and concluded the year at 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA and just 36 walks in 186 innings.


Twins allow reliever Jared Burton to leave for free agency
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:08 pm ET) The Twins have declined their option on veteran right-hander reliever Jared Burton, making him a free agent.

The 33-year-old Burton, who finished the year as the closer after Glen Perkins was shut down, compiled an ERA of 4.36, his worst since 2009. His control has weakened in each of his last three seasons and his strikeouts were well down in 2014.


Orioles facing dilemma in regard to future of 1B Chris Davis
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) The Orioles have a difficult decision to make regarding Jekyll-Hyde first baseman Chris Davis, who followed a stunningly productive 2013 with a stunningly horrible 2014.

Davis batted .196 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI before losing the last 17 games to suspension for PED use. The team might not want to risk taking him to arbitration, however, CSNBaltimore.com has speculated. Davis earned $10.35 million this season, a raise of more than $7 million from the previous year.

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Tigers OF Torii Hunter believes he proved his worth in 2014
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:34 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter appears to be leaning toward a return in 2015. That will allow to play into his 40s - he turns 40 in July.

Hunter maintained his consistency and productivity in 2014 by batting .286 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI while batting mostly second in the lineup. But his team was knocked out without winning a game in the postseason.

"Playing for a contender is very important to me," he told MLive.com. "But taking a lesser role will be hard for me when my core numbers are pretty good, not just for a guy that's 39 years old but also for a 22-year-old player. The last three or four months of the season, I played pretty good defense as well.

"I know that we all get older, but until I give you signs that I can't help a team, don't count me out just yet. I've been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. Everybody knows what they are going to get."


 
 
 
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