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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
Braves outfielder Joe Benson still pushing for roster spot
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) Braves outfielder Joe Benson continues to impress the organization as they prepare to make the final roster adjustments before Opening Day.

Wednesday, Benson drew the start in center field and ripped a solo home run in his appearance.

"He barreled two balls off of Cole Hamels," manager Fredi Gonzalez said to MLB.com. "The center fielder made a terrific play on a ball that I thought beat him out in right-center field. He made a really, really nice swing on the home run."

Benson is hitting .250 with two RBI in 12 plate appearances this spring and Gonzalez wants to see him continue on this path for the next few days.

"[Benson] hasn't done anything not to be in the mix, really," Gonzalez said. "He's played some solid center field, and you trust him out there. He takes solid routes."


Reds' Johnny Cueto strikes out seven but gives up three runs
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:59 pm ET) Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto had a mixed bag of results in Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Diamondbacks. 

Cueto went five innings and gave up three earned runs on three hits. One of those hits was a three-run double given up to Yasmany Tomas in the top of the fourth. Other than that one half-inning, Cueto fared well, striking out seven batters and walking two. 

Cueto faced a total of 14 batters in the first, second, third and fifth innings. He went against seven in the fourth. 


Padres' Shields tosses three scoreless innings in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) Padres pitcher James Shields allowed three hits and no walks in three scoreless innings while striking out two in his team's 8-2 win over the White Sox Wednesday.

Shields has alternated scoreless outings with mediocre appearances over his last four games but was able to end spring on a high note. He finishes the Cactus League season with a 2.79 ERA and 23:5 K:BB ratio in 19 1/3 innings. Shields will square off with the Dodgers Monday on Opening Day.


White Sox SP Samardzija allows five runs in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:54 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija surrendered five earned runs on six hits in four innings while striking out three and walking none in his team's 8-2 loss to the Padres.

Samardzija has put up mediocre results this spring, posting an 8.44 ERA but also recording an 18:2 K:BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings. He's set to make his regular-season debut Monday against the Royals on Opening Day.


Yankees still considering Robert Refsnyder for Opening Day roster
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) Yankees second baseman Robert Refsnyder is still being considered for an Opening Day roster spot after shortstop Brendan Ryan went down with a calf injury Wednesday, reports The Journal News.

"The young man, I think, has continually improved," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's a name that I'm sure is going to fly around a lot today."

Refsnyder is hitting .333 with five RBI in 39 plate appearances this spring.

"Things can happen quick," Girardi said. "I think a lot of clubs hold their breath this time of year that you leave camp the way you are. Sometimes it doesn't happen and you've got to deal with it. … Didi and Drew are healthy, so we're going to have to look at probably more of a second baseman in a sense. You could look at a second baseman more than a shortstop because you have two shortstops."


Royals' Yordano Ventura throws four innings in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:44 pm ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura made his final start of the spring Wednesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk in four innings while striking out three in his team's 4-4 tie with the Dodgers.

Ventura finishes the Cactus League season with a 4.50 ERA and 16:7 K:BB ratio in 18 innings. His next will come Monday against the White Sox on Opening Day.


Brewers shortstop Jean Segura working on hitting to opposite field
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) Brewers shortstop Jean Segura has worked all spring on his swing at the plate. With Opening Day on the horizon, Segura is putting the finishing touches on his swing and working to hit the ball to the opposite field, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"That's my approach," Segura said. "I always hit the ball to the other side of the field. When you lose that, you want to get it back because not many players can do it in the big leagues. I'm just lucky to have the ability to do that, and I'm just trying to improve every day."

Manager Ron Roenickes is taking notice of Segura's adjustments. 

"The sound of that ball is different," he said. "You're like 'Whoa.' I'm watching as he hits and the load is different. The hands work better. He's doing a couple of things really nice."


Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw tosses three innings in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw gave up one unearned run on just one hit and two walks in three innings while striking out two in his final spring performance in Wednesday's 4-4 tie with the Royals.

Kershaw closes the spring with a 1.61 ERA and 22:7 K:BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings. He'll next take the mound Monday for Opening Day against the Padres.


Cubs' Welington Castillo to open season as No. 3 catcher
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:29 pm ET) Cubs catcher Welington Castillo has made the team's initial 25-man roster and will open the season as the backup to Miguel Montero and David Ross, MLB.com reports.

"I told him, I think he's a major-league catcher, we think he's a major-league catcher," manager Joe Maddon said. "Obviously, it's going to be more difficult to be slotted in than he'd like to be right now. There's a lot of opportunity in the latter part of the game, whether it's pinch-running for somebody else or pinch-hitting, and beyond that getting him some starts. ... Of course, somebody will get injured -- it always happens -- so be ready. He's still young. He's the kind of guy I don't think we want to lose. That's a premium position to find. You don't shake a tree and find a good catcher. We have three good catchers here and that's really nice."

Castillo has hit .257/.333/.514 with two home runs in 35 at-bats this spring.


Royals' Yost on Louis Coleman: 'He's held his own'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:24 pm ET) Royals pitcher Louis Coleman is on the roster bubble this spring as he competes for one or possibly two open spots in the team's bullpen.

"He has been OK," manager Ned Yost said. "He came in with a lot of competition. He's held his own."

Coleman has delivered a 3.55 ERA and 15:0 K:BB ratio in 12 2/3 innings. He's out of options and would need to pass through waivers in order to be sent to the minors.


 
 
 
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