Fantasy Baseball Team Previews – Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw

While the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West for the third consecutive year last season, they once again failed to make it out of the divisional round of the playoffs. Given the team’s massive payroll, such continued postseason failure is a major reason for concern. The team and manager Don Mattingly mutually agreed to part ways last October and Dave Roberts was brought in to lead the club in 2016.

With so much money invested in the current roster, the Dodgers lineup doesn’t look too much different from last season. The one obvious loss is pitcher Zach Greinke, who parlayed a career year into a new mega contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Replacing Greinke in the rotation will be a pair of free agent signings, Scott Kazmir and Japanese sensation Kenta Maeda. The team also moved on from veteran Jimmy Rollins and will be going with top prospect Corey Seager as their new everyday shortstop.

Key Additions: SP Scott Kazmir, SP Kenta Maeda

Key Losses: SP Zach Greinke, SS Jimmy Rollins

2016 Prediction: 92-70 (1st in NL West)

Projected Lineup (per MLB RosterResource)

2B – Howie Kendrick

SS – Corey Seager

3B – Justin Turner

1B – Adrian Gonzalez

RF – Yasiel Puig

LF – Andre Ethier

C – Yasmani Grandal

CF – Joc Pederson

Corey Seager – Seager is a top tier prospect that showed impressive power and plate discipline after getting called up last September. He’s a balanced contributor and I expect him to provide 15-20 home runs while hitting in the .270-.280 range and adding decent counting stats. Additionally, while speed is not a big part of his game, he’s certainly capable of stealing 8-10 bases. The one worry I have with Seager is that his ADP (currently 63.4) indicates that the aforementioned projection is being viewed as his baseline production. And while I’m confident that he can reach those totals, we have to consider that he’s only played 27 career games in the majors and thus could struggle some once pitchers get adjusted to his approach.

Can Seager live up to all the hype?

Can Seager live up to all the hype?

Justin Turner – Turner has really impressed in his two seasons with the Dodgers. While not a major power or speed threat, he’s been very productive in other areas. It appears the team is going to keep him in the three hole to start the season so if that continues I can certainly see him driving in 75-80 runs while batting around .290. Turner is eligible at both first and third and while I don’t have him in my top 15 at either position, he makes for a great corner infield option in most leagues.

Adrian Gonzalez – A-Gon is undoubtedly one of the most dependable fantasy players in all of baseball. For context, 2015 marked the ninth consecutive season in which he’s played in 155-plus games, batted .275 or higher and drove in at least 90 runs. While Gonzalez no longer has the 30 home run upside of other elite options at the position, his consistency and health are incredibly valuable. I currently have him ninth in my first base rankings and would happily take him in any draft.

Yasiel Puig – Puig was a massive disappointment last season, especially considering that he was widely regarded as a second round pick in fantasy. That said there are a few reasons to be optimistic about his ability to bounce back in 2016. For one, it’s not as if he’s lost any of the talent that he flashed during his first two seasons. Second, it’s been reported that he’s shown up to camp in much better physical shape, which will hopefully help him avoid further injuries. And lastly, Zach Greinke and Don Mattingly, two of the individuals that Puig clashed with most often, are no longer with the club. I have him ranked as my number 24 outfielder, but while I’m obviously not predicting it, I could totally see him breaking out and finishing inside the top 10.

What can fantasy owners expect from Puig in 2016?

What can fantasy owners expect from Puig in 2016?

Yasmani Grandal – Grandal was terrific for fantasy owners in the first half last year, hitting .282 with 14 home runs. However, he completely fell apart after the All Star break, batting .162 with only two long balls. There’s wide speculation that he suffered an injury at some point during those last couple of months, so I’m not overly concerned with the drop-off. Now Grandal isn’t a great average hitter even when healthy, but does have plus power for the position. I view him as a low-end number one option at catcher and would gladly settle from him if he falls outside the top 12.

Any Other Business?

  • Howie Kendrick – Kendrick is a very solid all around hitter. He’s always going to bat close to .300 and usually flirts with double digits in both homers and steals. That said, he doesn’t have much upside in either of those categories and I would view him as a back-end middle infield option in most roto leagues.
  • Andre Ethier – The truth is that Ethier is a much more valuable player in reality than in fantasy. Consistent playing time has previously been the biggest issue, though at this point he’s no longer a player we can count on for 20 home runs or 80 RBI regardless of his role. So while it does appear that he will have the favorable side of any platoon with Crawford, I see Ethier as an NL only option or at best a fifth outfielder in deeper mixed formats.
  • Joc Pederson – To say that 2015 was a tale of two halves for Pederson would be an understatement. After slugging 20 home runs in the first three months of the season, he hit only six more and batted an abysmal .178 after the All-Star break. Pederson’s raw power is immense and his walk rate is encouraging, but he strikes out way too often and has failed to be the stolen base threat we saw in the minors. Batting eight will only further limit his upside and while I still have Pederson ranked in the high 40’s at outfield, I wouldn’t take him unless I was very comfortable with the rest of my team.

Projected Rotation

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Scott Kazmir
  3. Kenta Maeda
  4. Alex Wood
  5. Mike Bolsinger

The Dodgers rotation has some questions on the back-end, but it sure helps to be anchored by the best pitcher in the universe. I have Kershaw as my fifth player overall and he’s the only SP who’s a consensus first round pick.

Kazmir is a quality pitcher who I believe will benefit greatly from switching over to the National League. I expect a mid three ERA and close to a strikeout per inning now that he’s facing the opposing pitcher instead of a DH. I currently have Kazmir at 45 in my SP rankings, but I can see top 30 upside if everything goes his way.

While Maeda doesn’t have the ceiling of other Japanese pitchers like Darvish and Tanaka, that may actually make him a better value. Even without elite stuff, his unique style and arsenal should still pose a problem for hitters during his debut season. Maeda won’t provide a dazzling strikeout rate, but he’s a safe bet for good ratios and double digit wins. I’m treating him as a SP four in fantasy this season.

How will Maeda transition into the majors?

How will Maeda transition into the majors?

With Brett Anderson’s recent injury and Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy already slated to start the season on the DL, there’s some serious questions about how the Dodgers are going to handle the last couple slots in this rotation. Wood’s spot should now be secure, though his declining strikeout rate will make him a matchup play. Meanwhile, Bolsinger is the favorite to win the number five role, which puts him on the streamer radar in mixed leagues.

Bullpen

  • Closer: Kenley Jansen – Jansen is an elite closer and a top three option at the position for fantasy purposes. For context, he missed the first six weeks of last season and still finished the year as the 11th best relief pitcher in roto formats. With the Dodgers projected to win close to 90 games, health is the only thing that can keep Jansen from reaching the 35-plus save plateau once again
  • Next up: Chris Hatcher – While Hatcher was up and down for much of last season, he does have the skills to be an effective late inning reliever. Barring injury he won’t get many save opportunities, but his situation should make him a decent option in leagues that reward holds

Prospect Watch

Julio Urias (SP) – Urias is no doubt an elite prospect though it must be noted that he’s still only 19 and pitched on a strict innings limit last season. He’s also only made two career starts at AAA and neither of them went very well. This isn’t meant to be a knock on him, but I think it’s important to keep his progression in context. A 2016 debut is still very likely, albeit I wouldn’t expect him to pitch more than 60 innings at the major league level this year. The Dodgers’ cautious approach is bad news for fantasy owners, as Urias won’t pitch deep enough into games to be earn wins or quality starts.

Jose De Leon (SP) – De Leon is similar to Urias in terms of prospect status and workload concerns, but he does have several things going in his favor. For starters, he’s already 23 and has pitched three seasons in the minors. Further, while his starts were generally limited to four or five frames, he did throw 34 more innings than Urias in 2015. The thing that’s really exciting about De Leon however is his insane strikeout rate. His K/9 was 12.8 last season and 13.9 the year prior. I believe there’s a decent chance the Dodgers use him as a fifth or sixth starter to open the season, though I don’t think he’ll log enough innings to be a consistent fantasy option.

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