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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
Angels' Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:52 pm ET) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the Angels' starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the Angels are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens fighting for spot in bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens has been told he has a great arm. But Clemens, who posted a 5.51 ERA in 48 appearances with the Astros over the last two years, knows it'll take more than that.

"Some pitching coaches tell me how incredible my arm is and that I could play for a long time, so I think I've been showing some guys what I bring to the table," Clemens said. "I had a couple really good conversations with front office and some guys around here, so it's definitely motivating."

He wants to be able to pick out his spots better during spring training, knowing he has to impress as a non-roster invitee.

"Sometimes I think I get too overzealous with my fastball and I just pound it and pound it and pound it. So picking my spots more, being smarter. You can't really challenge guys at this level. Once in a while you've got to pick your spots, but you can't challenge too many guys, even the guys you don't really know their names as much. You've still got to pitch."


Athletics to ease Coco Crisp into action this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:08 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin wants to take things slow with veteran outfielder Coco Crisp this spring, reports MLB.com.

"I'll probably hold him out the first few because I'm going to cut down on his workload," Melvin said Sunday.

Crisp, who is dealing with a case of pinkeye, was held out of an intrasquad scrimmage, even though he was able to take part in batting practice.


Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta hoping to recreate 2014 season in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta wants to be able to do a lot of the things he succeeded doing in 2014. 

"I think what I did last year was pretty good for my first year in the National League," Peralta said. "I felt good about the home runs I hit. I know the average wasn't at .300, but I finished better than I started."

Peralta hit .263 with 21 home runs and 75 RBI in 560 plate appearances. His manager, Mike Matheny, wants to see a similar guy in 2015.

"He's been very consistent with getting himself ready and what he needs to do and who he needs to be. He came in here last year with a very workmanlike approach and went about it to build up for opening day," Matheny said.


Braves' Tanner Murphy drawing praise from bullpen coach
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:43 pm ET) Braves catcher Tanner Murphy is feeling the love this spring. The second-year player is being tabbed by bullpen coach Eddie Perez as the guy to watch in spring training.

"He's my number one guy so far," Perez said. "It's nice to have somebody like him because you don't know what's going to happen. When you look at this kid, you know something good is going to happen."

Murphy played just 82 games of rookie ball last year.

"He's got some talent and he's got some ability," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I saw him throw to the bases. (Catching instructor) Joe Breeden has seen him the most and Joe likes him a lot."


Jim Henderson throws off mound Sunday where season ended last year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:02 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Jim Henderson completed his first session against live batters Sunday and felt a weight lift off his shoulders, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"That same mound I threw on just now was the same mound that I realized the season was over on last year, so I was thinking about that when I got out there," Henderson said.

"I was like, ‘Forget this mound.’ It was kind of one of those moments where it was like this is where it ended and this is where it's going to begin again."

Henderson threw against three batters in Sunday's practice.

"It went well," he said. "It was just more of getting the feel out there today. Seeing the hitters and getting on a game mound again, just trying to get the feel back. That’s what I was looking for out of it – that competitiveness – and that’s what I got out of it."


Cubs' Joe Maddon impressed by Kris Bryant
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) Cubs manager Joe Maddon said third baseman Kris Bryant has been one of the most impressive position players this spring, reports MLB.com

"He's solid, he's motivated," Maddon said. "He's got a really nice way about him. He's really good, he knows he's really good, but he carries that very well. I like that. False humility doesn't do anything. It's kind of a worthless quality. I think his humility is sincere, but he also knows that he's good."

Despite Maddon's endorsement of Bryant, Maddon would not commit to Bryant making the Opening Day roster.

"Somewhere," Maddon said. "There's all kinds of Opening Days."


Nationals' Nate McLouth nearly done with throwing program
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth is getting towards the end of his throwing program to rehab his injured shoulder, reports MLB.com. But, manager Matt Williams doesn't want to take any chances with the injury flaring back up for McLouth.

"Once he gets sore, then we got to shut him down for a few days," Williams said. "So we don't want to get there."

McLouth is recovering from shoulder surgery that took place in August to repair a torn labrum. He is getting close to adding more distance to long toss.

"It doesn't hurt, and nothing I've done has made it hurt at all," McLouth said. "So it's fine. Now it's just a matter of getting more distance."


Nationals' Bryce Harper says he has to step up production
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) With the Nationals losing first baseman Adam LaRoche to free agency, outfielder Bryce Harper knows he needs to increase his production, reports MLB.com.

"I'll help out for sure," Harper said. "After losing LaRoche, I have to step up a little bit. I have to do what I need to do. Our pitching is going to take us to the top, hopefully, but we still have to have offense. We have to do the things we need to do. I'm ready to go. I'll be feeling good."

Harper said the key to his success in 2015 will be sticking to his approach and not trying to overdo it.

"I have to see what [pitchers] are going to do to me, see how they approach me, really just working my pitch and not go out of my comfort zone," Harper said. "If I can do that, stay within myself and have a little bit of fun at the plate, that will go a long way."


Orioles' Jason Garcia turns heads in spring training debut Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Jason Garcia is battling to make the major-league roster this spring. If Sunday was any indication, he's got a good chance.

"He got a couple of our guys from the bench up to the top step," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Garcia threw a perfect inning with two strikeouts in the team's intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

"It felt good. It's what you work for, throwing against those guys," Garcia said, who has never pitched above the Triple-A level. "Definitely it was a thrill. Pretty nervous out there, but it was awesome."


 
 
 
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