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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Los Angeles Dodgers

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The Dodgers' Great Spending Spree of 2012 continued into last offseason, and with the additions of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the star-studded squad was able to secure its first division title and postseason berth since 2009. Though the team's investment in pricey veterans like Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez paid off to some degree, it was three players in their pre-peak years -- Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig and Kenley Jansen -- who were key to fueling the Dodgers' success.

That trio was also a big part of the success of many Fantasy owners. Of course, Kershaw cost the Dodgers $215 million this offseason, and he won't come cheap in Fantasy auctions or drafts either. Nor should he. His 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP made him the most productive pitcher in Fantasy, and his consistency over the last three years is rivaled by none. As a rookie, Puig had his ups and downs, but his overall body of work -- reflected in a .319/.391/.534 slash line -- was impressive enough to make him a viable early round pick this year. Though he needed a meltdown by Brandon League to get a second chance to close, Jansen seized the opportunity and became one of the most valuable closers in Fantasy, despite having the role for less than two-thirds of the season. He heads into 2014 as one of Fantasy's top five closers.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Like Jansen, Ramirez made the most of limited opportunities, ranking as the fifth-most productive shortstop in Rotisserie formats despite playing only 86 games. Numerous injuries shelved Ramirez during the 2013 season, and he scarcely played until mid-June. Health issues have put a damper on his Fantasy value at various times over the last four seasons, but if Ramirez can avoid injury, he could emerge as the top shortstop in Fantasy overall. Injuries are an even bigger concern for Matt Kemp (ankle, shoulder), but even with him being in danger of missing opening day, he will likely be taken in the early rounds of most drafts.

Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are past their days of being Fantasy elites, but both still have enough value to be worth mid-round picks. The same is true for the Dodgers' No. 2 and 3 starting pitchers, Greinke and Ryu. (Some would argue Greinke should still be taken in the early rounds, but I will make my case against that below.) Andre Ethier's role in the Dodger outfield is unclear for now, but he should garner enough at-bats to be worth a late-round gamble.

Aside from the re-signing of Kershaw, the Dodgers have had a relatively quiet offseason, but they have taken a stab at upgrading an already strong roster. Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero was signed to replace Mark Ellis at second base, though he will have to compete with Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas before claiming the job. The team also dipped into the free agent market to add Dan Haren to a rotation mix that will also include Josh Beckett and possibly Chad Billingsley, who could return from Tommy John surgery as early as May. The Dodgers also beefed up the bullpen by signing former Indians closer Chris Perez and re-signing ex-Giants closer Brian Wilson, who joined the team during their playoff push last season.

The Dodgers appear to be a strong favorite to repeat as National League West champs, but aside from Kershaw, there are few safe bets on the roster. Though Ramirez, Kemp, Gonzalez and Crawford have been among the Fantasy elite within the past few years, and Puig threatens to be in the very near future, none offers the consistency one would want from an early pick. The team is fraught with risky options, but it is unquestionably deep in Fantasy talent.

Buyer beware (hitter edition) ... Matt Kemp, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Carl Crawford LF
2. Yasiel Puig RF
3. Hanley Ramirez SS
4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
5. Matt Kemp CF
6. Juan Uribe 3B
7. A.J. Ellis C
8. Alexander Guerrero 2B
Bench Dee Gordon SS
Bench Andre Ethier OF

The last time Kemp was healthy enough to play a full season, he had an MVP-caliber year, but that campaign is now three years ago. Not only do Fantasy owners have to weigh the risks of drafting Kemp for steals and power that he may no longer deliver at his previous levels, but we also have to worry about how well he will recover from last fall's ankle and shoulder surgeries. Because Kemp is still on the youthful side of 30 and could provide a 20-20 season with a .300 average (or much more), it's tempting to start thinking of Kemp in the first two rounds. It's not a terrible move -- other top outfielders like Puig, Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista present their own risk/reward conundrums -- but it's one that could easily backfire. That early in the draft, you are probably better off settling on safe but unexciting Adam Jones or filling another position.

Buyer beware (pitcher edition) ... Zack Greinke, starting pitcher

Though Greinke finished as a top 20 Rotisserie starter last season (and just missed out on the top 20 in Head-to-Head), there were some ominous trends. Greinke's strikeout rate dipped notably for the second straight year, and his rate of called strikes fell dramatically. The differential between his fastball and changeup velocities shrank for the third straight year, and not surprisingly, hitters swung at the changeup far more frequently. Nonetheless, Greinke was surprisingly effective using his changeup. According to BrooksBaseball.net, hitters batted .240 on Greinke's changeup, whereas he allowed batting averages well above .300 in three of the four previous seasons. But he didn't get a higher rate of whiffs per swing, so there may have been an element of luck working in Greinke's favor on changeups put in play. He may not get away with allowing more contact on his changeup going forward, and should that happen, Greinke's ERA and WHIP will rise, and he won't have the strikeouts to make up for it. He could always reverse the trend, so Greinke could continue to be a top 20 starter, but he could just as easily slip into middle-of-the-rotation territory.

Bounceback candidate ... Dan Haren, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Clayton Kershaw LHP
2. Zack Greinke RHP
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu LHP
4. Dan Haren RHP
5. Josh Beckett RHP
ALT Stephen Fife RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Kenley Jansen RHP
2. Brian Wilson RHP
3. Chris Perez RHP
4. Paco Rodriguez LHP
5. Brandon League RHP

Like Greinke, Haren was finding some of his secondary offerings -- namely, his cutter and splitter -- less deceptive due to a small difference in velocity compared to his fastball. After returning from a midseason trip to the disabled list, Haren started throwing softer cutters and splitters. Over the next three months, he sported an 8.6 K/9 ratio and a 3.29 ERA, looking more like the Haren from his Diamondback days. The 33-year-old will try to keep his momentum going with the Dodgers, and if he succeeds, he could provide great value for a late-round pick.

Prospects Report

Alexander Guerrero could be the only Dodger prospect to make an impact in 2014, and at age 27, he probably has a limited window to make an impression. ... Joc Pederson kept his power numbers intact after jumping from the California League to the Southern League. He offers a nice combination of power, on-base percentage and steals, but a surging strikeout rate is something to watch. Even with a strong Triple-A campaign, the Dodgers have a full outfield, so don't count on a 2014 callup. ... In dynasty leagues, now is a good time to buy low on Corey Seager. He may have been a little too aggressive in the California League, as his strikeout and flyball rates surged, but the potential to hit for power and average is still there for the 19-year-old shortstop. ... With Beckett's health still somewhat in question, Zach Lee could get a chance to join the Dodgers' rotation sooner than later. Single-season league owners only need to consider him in their NL-only leagues. ... 21-year-old Chris Anderson and 17-year-old Julio Urias have just one year of professional ball under their belts, so while both appear a long way off from the majors, both should be owned in dynasty leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Mike Olt hits fourth homer Tuesday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:19 am ET) Cubs third baseman Mike Olt continued his all-or-nothing season Tuesday, clubbing his fourth home run of the season in a 9-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

Olt went 1 for 4 in the game and struck out twice, giving him eight strikeouts in the last four games. Still, he clubbed a three-run shot in the fifth inning to provide what would ultimately be the winning margin in the game.

Olt is hitting just .195, but is providing the kind of power that became his calling card in the minors. Of his eight hits in 16 games, four are home runs and five are for extra bases. He has a .195/.250/.512 line in 41 at-bats. 


Chase Headley hits second home run in big spot
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:12 am ET) Padres third baseman Chase Headley is showing some signs of life, as he ended a power drought and brought his batting average to the Mendoza line in a 2-1 win over the Brewers Tuesday.

Headley slugged his first home run in nine games Tuesday, and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time. He went deep in the 12th inning to provide the winning run in the game, and finished 2 for 4 overall with a  walk and strikeout added.

Headley is hitting just .200 through 18 games with two home runs and seven RBI, but has hit safely in four of five games to raise his average 40 points. 


Ben Revere racks up four hits in win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:09 am ET) Phillies outfielder Ben Revere did his job Tuesday, reaching base four times in a 3-2 win over the win over the Dodgers.

Revere doesn't walk much in general, so each of his times on base came via a single, as he went 4 for 5 at the top of the order. He scored just once, while adding his sixth stolen base of the season.

Revere has raised his batting average in recent days, and is now hitting exactly .300 through 18 games. He has a .319 on-base percentage and .329 slugging percentage in 70 at-bats as well, with 10 runs scored. 


Dee Gordon passes concussion test
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:06 am ET) Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon took and passed a concussion test after leaving Tuesday's game, as he told the O.C. Register. He suffered a head injury while sliding into third base in the seventh inning, but appears to have avoided the worst-case scenario. His status is likely day to day moving forward. 

Jonathan Papelbon nearly flawless in return from illness
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:03 am ET) Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon was able to take the mound for a save opportunity Tuesday against the Dodgers, despite missing the team's previous game with an illness. He had little trouble taking care of the Dodgers in the outing, retiring them on seven pitches despite allowing a two-out single. He induced a trio of flyballs to retire the side, earning his sixth save in seven chances.

Papelbon has allowed a run in just one of his nine appearances this season, as he has pitched better than his 3.24 ERA might indicate. He has seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, while allowing three walks and seven hits total. 


Hyun-Jin Ryu settles for no-decision in extra-innings loss
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:59 am ET) Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu continued his strong pitching Tuesday against the Phillies, though he did allow runs for just the second time in the 3-2 loss.

Ryu settled for a no-decision despite tossing his fourth quality start in six trips to the mound. He allowed just two runs despite scattering nine hits and a pair of walks. Ryu didn't have his best stuff, striking out just three batters for the second straight start, while throwing 68 of 106 pitches for strikes.

Ryu has been mostly stellar this season, and has a 3-1 record and 2.12 ERA in 34 innings of work. His next start is set for Sunday against the Rockies. 


A.J. Burnett remains solid, winless
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:53 am ET) Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett had a good day at the mound and the plate Tuesday, but ended up having to settle for a no-decision in a 3-2, extra-innings win.

Burnett limited the Dodgers to just two runs in 6 2/3 innings of work, his third quality start in five trips to the mound. He scattered six hits and a walk in his six-plus innings while striking out five, but remains winless on the season, as the Phillies offense gave him little support in the no-decision.

Burnett is off to a solid start to the season, despite an 0-1 record. He has a 2.73 ERA in five starts, and will look for his first win in his next start, Sunday in Arizona. 


Dee Gordon forced out with head injury
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:49 am ET) Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon was forced to leave Tuesday's game against the Phillies late, due to an apparent head injury. He suffered the injury sliding into third base on a steal in the seventh inning, and left after scoring later in the inning.

The extent of Gordon's injury is not yet known, though he will likely go through the league's concussion protocol Tuesday night. He went 2 for 3 before suffering the injury to raise his season average to .369. 


Pedro Figueroa exits game Tuesday with elbow injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Rangers pitcher Pedro Figueroa was removed from Tuesday's game against the A's after suffering an elbow injury, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Figueroa threw just one pitch in the game, hitting a batter. He immediately began shaking his arm and was removed after a visit from the trainer. The team will likely have him undergo an MRI. Figueroa owns a 4.00 ERA and 3:3 K:BB ratio in nine innings.


LaTroy Hawkins pitches around trouble for save
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins didn't have to pitch the full inning for the save Tuesday, but still almost blew his first save before finding his way in a 2-1 win.

Hawkins entered the game with one out already recorded in the ninth, thanks to lefty-specialist Rex Brothers' work against Brandon Belt. Hawkins played with fre by allowing the first two batters faced to reach base via a walk and single, before ending the threat and recording his sixth save in as many tries.

Hawkins has six saves, a 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in eight appearances this season, though he also only has three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. 


 
 
 
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