Dodgers Fantasy Baseball Preview
Many of you no doubt play in Fantasy Baseball leagues and there’s nothing like rooting for your favorite team and your fantasy squad at the same time. But just how many Dodgers offer fantasy appeal and can help lead you to your league’s title. For those of you who participate in a league where your draft takes place at the end of Spring training I offer you the following nuggets of information.
There are only 2 Dodgers who are worthy early round selections in any fantasy format, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Both are going on average in the 3rd or 4th round. Kemp offers extra value in roto leagues where stolen bases are typically the most difficult category to come by. If his work with Davey Lopes pays off, and Kemp once again tops the 30 stolen base mark, combined with a .280 or .290 batting average, 25 to 30 home runs, 90+ RBI, and 90 to 100 runs scored, then he is the definition of a “fantasy stud.” If Kemp can return to his 2009 form, and judging by his Spring he is well on his way, then he could be one of the most valuable fantasy options, and you may be getting top 15 fantasy production in the 3rd round.
Kershaw also has the potential to be a top 10 fantasy ace, especially if he cuts down on his walks, which will greatly help his WHIP (walks + hits divided by innings pitched) which was still a very solid 1.18 in 2010. You can count on an ERA around 3.00 or below and a high strikeout total, 212 K’s in 204 IP in 2010. Also if the Dodger offense and bullpen are any better than they were in 2010, it’s hard to imagine that not being the case, then Kershaw should be in line for his first 15+ win season. He should also be on the board after the top fantasy pitchers like Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Tim LinceScum, Cliff Lee, John Lester etc…and represents a solid fantasy starting pitcher in any format.
The next Dodger to go off the board will most likely be Andre Ethier, who has been going in the mid-50’s based on ESPN’s average draft results. Ethier was on his way to a career season, hitting for average, power, and driving in runs, until a pinkie injury essentially derailed his season. There is still the concern about ‘Dre being able to hit lefties, but he is probably a safer pick than Hunter Pence, Alex Rios or Mike Stanton, all guys who are going ahead of him currently in most drafts. You likely won’t get much help in the stolen base department, he had 2 last year, but it’s not totally unrealistic to think the Davey Lopes factor could see ‘Dre flirt with double digit steals.
Perhaps one of the biggest fantasy bargains, and the recipient of a new 3 year contract extension is Chad Billingsley, who is being drafted in the 10th round. Bills owns a career ERA of 3.5 and has averaged 13 wins and 175 K’s the past 4 seasons. He seemed to finally put his struggles during the 2nd half of seasons behind him last year, and with the security of a contract that could run through 2015, this might be the year he matches or exceeds his 2008 career highs of 16 wins and 201 K’s. If you get a starting pitcher in the 10th round who gives you those type of numbers then that is the equivalent of highway robbery.
Prior to his 2nd half debacle last year Jonathan Broxton was typically a top 3 closer and worthy of a pick in the 7th round. His high save total combined with his miniscule ERA, WHIP, and strikeout totals was fantasy gold. Dodger fans can only hope he regains his elite closer status, indeed he is one of the key players if the Dodgers are to experience a 2011 rebound season. Fantasy leaguers haven’t totally given up on Broxton as he is still being drafted as a top 10 closer, but seeing names like Huston Street, Chris Perez and John Axford being listed by Broxton shows that confidence isn’t exactly high for Big Jon.
One Dodger fantasy leaguers certianly are high on is Ted Lilly. They obviously liked what they saw during his stint as a Dodger last season, and considering he’s being drafted ahead of starting pitchers like Clay Buchholz, who won 17 games with a 2.33 ERA last year, Lilly has a lot to prove. If he can put together a full season of numbers similar to what he did as a Dodger then 13 to 15 wins and a ERA of 3.75 is possible. One category Lilly should help you in is WHIP as he has posted a stellar 1.08 & 1.05 the past 2 years, and has double digit win totals the past 8 seasons. Let’s hope at age 35 he can keep it up.
Perhaps the biggest boom or bust player for the Dodgers, in both fantasy and real life, is shortstop Rafael Furcal. A healthy Furcal wreaking havoc atop the Dodger lineup is key for the teams success in 2011. However, considering he has only played in 150 or more games in 2 of his 5 seasons as a Dodger, his injury concerns are valid. A healthy Furcal should give you the production of a top 5 SS, an injured Furcal could spell doom for your fantasy team and the Dodgers as well. When Furcal is healthy you can pencil him in for 100 runs, 10 HR, 30+ stolen bases, and a .300 batting average. Dodger fans and fantasy leaguers would take those numbers in a second, especially from a 14th round pick at a position notoriously weak in depth.
Also going in the 14th round is starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. In his 3 years as a Dodger Kuroda has only managed an average of 9 wins per season, with a career high 11 last year. However, pitching in Dodger Stadium, Petco Park, and whatever they’re calling that stadium to the North where the “battery chuckers by the bay” play, all notorious pitchers parks, Kuroda has averaged a 3.58 ERA and a respectable 1.16 WHIP. At 36 years old injury concerns exist, but again if healty, and if the offense and bullpen are improved Kuroda should surpass his season total in wins while giving you a solid ERA and WHIP, with an average numbers of strikeouts, think 140 K’s if he pitchers 180 innings.
The only other Dodger being drafted in the top 200 overall is Juan Uribe. While his OBP and batting average are nothing to write home about, Uribe offers 1 very valuable trait, position eligibility. In most leagues he played enough games to be eligible this year at 2B, SS and 3B. If you have depth on your roster, say a Joe Mauer or Ichiro, who can help offset Uribe’s low BA, then his 20+ HR and 80+ RBI are particularly useful at 2B, SS, or MI where power is usually in low supply and high demand. Dodger fans can only hope 2010 was not an abberation and Uribe can match his power totals from a year ago.
Oh how 1 subpar season has seen James Loney fall from fantasy graces. Typically a borderline top 10 first baseman, Loney is currently being drafted 213th and 23rd overall at his position, behind the likes of Ike Davis, Carlos Pena (who hit below .200 last year) and Mitch Moreland who isn’t even going to be the everyday first baseman for Texas. If Loney can rebound to his .280 to .290 BA, drive in his usual 90 runs, and hit 12 to 15 home runs then he has the potential to be a fantasy steal. He also stole a career high 10 bases last year and again the Davey Lopes factor could see that number rise to 15. The Dodgers desperately need Loney to return to form, and the theme to the Dodgers fantasy preview for 2011 seems to be players rebounding from down years.
A couple of sleepers to keep your eye on, who could be very valuable depending on the type of league you are in are Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen. In leagues that use middle-men and reward for holds Kuo is as good as it gets, as his 73 K’s, 1.20 ERA, and .078 WHIP represent. He also added 12 saves and would be first in line if Broxton fails to recover from his 2010 second half woes. So in Kuo you have a potential stud closer who will give you solid numbers in every category, even if your league does not reward holds.
If 2010 wasn’t a fluke then Kenley Jansen could offer the same value as Kuo, especially in leagues where holds are a scoring category. Jansen also only pitched 27 innings in 2010 so he still maintains his rookie status. If you are in a keeper league he is a fantastic option to draft and stash on your minor league roster as he could very well be the Dodgers closer of the future, a very near future if Broxton keeps throwing 93 MPH fastballs and struggles to save games.
If you are in a keeper league and are allowed to stash minor league players then obviously there are several Dodgers you will want to try and grab. Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa top the list, and both should see their MLB debuts late in 2011, and could be full-time options by 2012. The same can also be said for Dee Gordon. Considering he only started playing baseball as a senior in high school it is remarkable how quickly he has progressed. He posesses as good of speed as any player in the minors, and could also see his full-time Dodger career begin in 2012. 1 big obstacle in his path is the clause in Rafael Furcal’s contract that guarantees his 2012 option if he reaches 600 plate appearances.
Other minor leaguers to stash are Trayvon Robinson who could be a solid .280, 15 HR, 35+ stolen base outfielder in the very near future. And certianly all eyes will be on 2010 1st round pick Zach Lee, who still has yet to throw his first professional pitch. Scouts rave about his “repeatable” delivery, competitiveness, and of course his mid-90’s fastball. A solid campaign from him could see him skyrocket up prospect lists. Also keep an eye out on former first rounders Chris Withrow, Ethan Martin, and Aaron Miller. All 3 had subpar seasons last year and suffered with control problems, but they also all have live arms and a solid season could see them on the doorstep of Dodger stadium in the very near future.
Best of luck to all of you in your fantasy leagues, and here’s wishing good health to the key Dodgers mentioned above and a return to the postseason. At the very least let’s hope the team to the North or the White Sox don’t make a playoff run simply for the reason that we won’t have to hear Don’t Stop Believing by Journey over and over again.