After a slow start to the 2013 season the Dodgers took off. Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene, and Clayton Kershaw proved to be the best pitcher in the league.
The Dodgers finished the season on a high note, but also with a resolve to improve the team.
These resolutions resulted in bringing over bounce-back candidate Dan Haren, former closers Brian Wilson and Chris Perez, and Cuban All-Star Alexander Guerrero.
Things are looking up for the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers – and many Fantasy owners that draft them.
The Dodgers have a logjam in the outfield, resulting in a projected lineup without Andre Ethier. Matt Kemp’s health and a platoon role could earn Ethier playing time. And they’re poised to have one of the best starting rotations and bullpens in baseball.Kershaw has led the NL in ERA the last three years, and is still getting better. He got his payday but don’t expect the money or the pressure of a new contract to change him.
The Dodgers’ best pitcher in the second half could have been Zack Greinke. That is high praise when his teammate won the Cy Young.
Hyun-Jin Ryu had a spectacular rookie season that may have been overshadowed by a few other spectacular rookies. The scouting report will be out on Ryu, and it will be interesting to see if hitters start becoming more familiar with him.
Haren’s last two seasons have been difficult. The Dodgers are betting on a rebound from him, but it may be risky for Fantasy owners to invest in him. He does have a few things going for him in 2014, including pitching at Dodgers Stadium and against the NL West.
Josh Beckett is expected to be ready by the beginning of the season. The change of scenery first looked to be all that Beckett needed in 2012. As a Dodger, Beckett posted a 2.93 ERA — unfortunately, this did not translate to 2013.
Health and opportunity are the two biggest concerns for Chad Billingsley. The waiting for Billingsley to become an ace has passed, but if he gets a shot at the rotation, he could be interesting.
Kenley Jansen has established himself as one of baseball’s elite closers. The Dodgers have found reasons to block Jansen from the closer job in the past, but this year it will be all Jansen. His Fantasy owners will only need to hope he doesn’t experience any heart trouble as he has in previous seasons.
Brian Wilson would make an easy transition to the closer role if the opportunity presented itself. However, that opportunity is unlikely to present itself, and Wilson signed with the Dodgers comfortable in a setup role. In holds leagues, Wilson would be a valuable pick.
Projected 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers “Go-To” Lineup:
- LF Carl Crawford
- RF Yasiel Puig
- 1B Adrian Gonzalez
- SS Hanley Ramirez
- CF Matt Kemp
- 3B Juan Uribe
- 2B Alexander Guerrero
- C A.J. Ellis
- SP1 Clayton Kershaw
- SP2 Zack Greinke
- SP3 Hyun-Jin Ryu
- SP4 Dan Haren
- SP5 Josh Beckett
- Others: Chad Billingsley
- Setup: Brian Wilson
- Closer: Kenley Jansen
Fantasy Studs: Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez
Kershaw will be the first pitcher off the board in 99 percent of drafts. Kershaw is almost a lock to get you 225 innings of sub-2.75 ERA baseball with over 225 strikeouts, and that is conservative. Is there more that needs to be said?
Ramirez will also find himself getting picked in the first round or two. His shortstop eligibility certainly helps his draft position, but so do his numbers. Aside from two outlier (and turbulent) seasons with the Marlins, Ramirez is a .300 hitter. Don’t expect him to get back to stealing 30-plus bases, but you can expect production in all categories at an elite level.
Breakout Candidate: Kenley Jansen
Jansen is likely to be drafted in the middle rounds. Many don’t like to draft a closer too early, but there are reasons to take a second look. In 2013, Jansen accumulated 28 saves after taking over the closing job in mid-June! Brandon League appeared in 15 save situations before Jansen took over. Jansen could have easily logged 40-plus saves.
Sleeper Candidate: Dee Gordon
If Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero doesn’t prove to be MLB ready, the job could fall to Dee Gordon. If Gordon is given the share of at-bats at 2B, you can expect the stolen bases to follow. In Rotisserie leagues especially, Gordon could be a huge boost to the stolen base category.
Bust Candidates: Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig
Kemp will be drafted in the early rounds of this year’s drafts. He is being drafted early with the hopes of his returning to his 40-40 production. I am not convinced that a 40-40 season is reasonable to hope for. Kemp is a good bet to cut down on his stolen base numbers, and it is yet to see if the home runs will climb back up.
Puig will be another early round pick this year. I do not doubt his talent on the field, but his off-the-field issues could derail a spectacular season. This, however, is not something I would change my draft strategy over, just as you can’t predict a freak injury.
Top Rookie: Alexander Guerrero
The Cuban was signed with the idea of being the Dodgers’ starting second basemen. Guerrero provides a power bat at a valuable second base position. Some of the Cuban talents before him, like Yoenis Cespedes and teammate Puig, have come into the big leagues ready to play at a high level. The Dodgers hope for Guerrero to do the same.
What Should We Know?
Do not let the Dodgers’ ranking in runs scored (17th) last year fool you. This is a lineup that should score a lot of runs, and a pitching staff that should earn a lot of wins. The 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers expect to start the season the same way they finished it, and continue the production throughout.
When Dave Albin isn’t coaching youth baseball, he is blogging about fantasy baseball. He earned his degree in Communications Public Relations from California State University, Fullerton. Check out his work at DavoMcflavo.Wordpress.com.
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