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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
Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers working to fix command issues
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers gave up four runs on four hits in Thursday's game, his first rough patch of spring training. Brothers thinks his command faded when he got batters down in the count, reports the Denver Post.

"It was like an out-of-body experience," he said Friday. "Just one of those oddity nights. I was sharp until I got into put-away counts, then it was brutal. Absolutely brutal."

Manager Walt Weiss isn't concerned about his appearance and thinks it was more of an aberration.

"There's been enough positive signs in spring to feel good about where he is," Weiss said. "But fact of the matter is, that stuff is always right around the corner. Not just him, but anybody."


Seven no-hit innings for Royals' Yordano Ventura
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura threw seven no-hit innings in Friday's start. 

Ventura walked two and struck out four, while throwing 49 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He lowered his spring ERA to 5.14.

The Royals took Ventura from the game after the seventh, as reliever Jason Frasor made it one out further before giving up a hit. 

The bullpen completed the one-hitter. 


Brewers pitcher Will Smith holds key to success out of the bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Brewers pitcher Will Smith could be the best cog in Milwaukee's bullpen this season. Manager Ron Roenicke sure hopes so, reports MLB.com.

"I think coming into it, we're counting on him to pitch some high-leverage innings," Roenicke said Friday. "He's going to be a huge part of that bullpen and what we do and how I match up the seventh and eighth inning. He's going to be important."

Smith has a 0.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring and posted a 3.70 ERA in 78 games last season.

"My last two outings I felt really good out there, really strong," Smith said on Friday. "Me and the catchers are on the same page for everything now. I think I'm good to go now."


Still no decision between Mariners' Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon still hasn't named a winner in the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. 

RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Roenis Elias are in the running for the spot. Walker has a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings this spring, while Elias' ERA is 6.75. 

McClendon said he wouldn't announce his fifth starter until the final week of spring. Saturday marks the start of the final week, and McClendon said he'd "be close" to making the call, per MLB.com's Greg Johns.


Brewers to decide leadoff hitter Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Brewers manager Ron Roenicke plans to decide between Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez for the leadoff spot in the lineup by Monday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gennett hit .289 with 54 RBI and 55 runs scored in 440 plate appearances last season while Gomez hit.284 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 574 plate appearances.


Phillies' Jake Diekman historically bad in loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman declared his Friday appearance, "the worst outing in the history of the world." 

Diekman entered a scoreless game in the fifth inning and promptly gave up a double and four singles before recording an out. He ended up allowing seven runs in one third of an inning.

"I fell behind in counts and every strike I threw they took a good swing at," Diekman said, per CSN Philly. "It’s embarrassing. ... It's unbelievable." 

Despite his 12.27 ERA, Diekman got a vote of confidence from manager Ryne Sandberg. "There’s no concern," he said. 


Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy gets first start at first base Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Brewers regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy drew his first start at first base after being cleared from a strained right hamstring injury. Manager Ron Roenicke wanted to be able to see Lucroy's versatility.

"Thought we needed to do it, so hopefully we can do it at least once more,” said Roenicke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But as much as he gets out there, it will help. There’s some pitchers that we still want him to catch and if we can get through those then maybe some other days we can get him over there again."

Lucroy was happy to finally be back on the field.

"I've been doing a little bit out there every day," Lucroy said. "Taking some grounders and stuff to stay sharp over there."


Cardinals' John Lackey ready for the regular season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) John Lackey pitched seven innings, the longest of any Cardinals starter so far this season. 

Lackey allowed one run on six hits and didn't walk a batter, throwing 84 pitches. 

"Throwing seven innings, that was probably a little bit further than I thought I'd go today with the pitch count," said Lackey, per MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch. "But they were pretty aggressive, and I was throwing a lot of strikes. It worked out pretty good."

Lackey had his catcher call the game as if it were a regular season game, and his performance indicates that he's ready for the season to begin.

"That's what it looked like," coach David Bell said. "It looked like he was making all his pitches. The velocity was there. He probably had a little more in the tank, which is a good thing."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez not worried about role on staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez gave up just one run on five hits in five innings of work Friday against the Nationals. Martinez, who is competing for the final spot in St. Louis' starting rotation, has allowed just seven runs in 16 innings of work.

"I've been working hard," Martinez said through an interpreter to MLB.com. "Some of the outings haven't gone as good as I've wanted to, but I'm just trying to learn from that and get better every day."

Martinez is still focused on earning a starting spot.

"Right now I'm fighting to be a starter," Martinez said. "But if they call me into the bullpen I'm going to be ready for the team. I just want to help the team win, and I'm going to be ready when my name gets called."


Rays pitcher Everett Teaford making push for spot on pitching staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rays pitcher Everett Teaford tossed two scoreless innings Friday, sending all six batters down in order. The 31-year-old is making management give him an extra look before deciding on the final pitching staff, reports MLB.com.

"I thought he threw the ball well. First pitch, Reimold was ready to go, but after that I thought Teaf did a nice job of mixing pitches just like he always does," manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash likes that Teaford can get out of nearly any situation that arises.

"He's been around enough that he's probably given up enough home runs and big hits so he knows how to handle it when he does deal with some adversity," said Cash. "I wouldn't have expected anything other than that from him. Just getting right back into the strike zone again."

Teaford has spent most of spring training working on his command and effectiveness.

"That's really been the biggest thing I wanted to do this spring is not walk anybody. If I'm going to get beat, make them beat me and up to this point, I really have," said Teaford.


 
 
 
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