StrategyFebruary 19, 2012

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers

By Element

It was a season of highs and lows for the Dodgers in 2011. It started with the continuation of the very ugly and public divorce situation of the McCourt family, which eventually led to the club filing for bankruptcy mid-summer. That didn’t keep certain players from enjoying outstanding personal success. Matt Kemp finished as the runner up to eventual MVP winner Ryan Braun, coming just one HR shy of an incredible 40/40 season. Clayton Kershaw clinched the Triple Crown while cruising to his first career Cy Young award. With a 37-51 record after 88 games, the Dodgers finished strong to end the season with an 82-79 record under rookie skipper Don Mattingly.

In 2012, the Dodgers will look to build on their second half success. However, Dodger brass did very little to upgrade the shoddy offense surrounding newly extended superstar Matt Kemp. The team will need to rely heavily on resurgences from Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley to help anchor the lineup and pitching staff respectively.

“30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.

Offensive Starters

C A.J. Ellis.271.392.3768211085 
1B James Loney.288.339.4165612654531 
2B Mark Ellis.248.288.3465574114480w/2T
SS Dee Gordon.304.325.3623401124224 
3B Juan Uribe.204.264.293214282270 
LF Juan Rivera.258.319.3824611745466w/2T
CF Matt Kemp.324.399.5861153912640602 
RF Andre Ethier.292.368.4216711620487 

Unsettled: Left Field. The Dodgers acquired Juan Rivera from the Blue Jays last July, and he provided some much needed run production behind Matt Kemp, totaling 46 RBIs in just 219 at bats. The reward? A one-year, $4.5 million contract this winter. He will likely be the front runner to join Kemp and Ethier in the outfield every day but will need to hold off Jerry Sands from overtaking the position. Sands struggled after making his Dodger debut but finished the season on a high note with a .342/.415/.493 slash line in September. Sands will likely begin the season in Triple-A Albuquerque unless he forces L.A.’s hand in Spring Training.

Target: Andre Ethier. Ethier started the 2011 season on fire and looked primed for another solid performance. However, shortly after his 30-game hit streak was snapped, Ethier began experiencing some knee pain and wasn’t the same moving forward. His ISO dropped from the usual .200-plus to a pedestrian .129. After Ethier hit just 11 homers in 551 at bats in 2011, we should certainly expect things to come back to normal in 2012. It wouldn’t be a shock to see another .290/25/90 line out of him this year. Ethier’s MDP is currently sitting at 126, which puts him around guys like Nick Markakis and Cameron Maybin. That should prove be great value as he heads into a contract season.

The Rotation

Clayton Kershaw (L)21-52.280.9824854233.1 
Chad Billingsley (R)11-114.211.4515284188.0 
Ted Lilly (L)12-143.971.1615851192.2 
Aaron Harang (R)14-73.641.3712458170.2w/SD
Chris Capuano (L)11-124.551.3516853186.0w/NYM

Unsettled: This group is looking a little more trim from last season with the loss of the very reliable Hiroki Kuroda, but everything is basically set for 2012. Kershaw is the lone gem of the rotation. He had improved in virtually every metric across the board in three consecutive seasons. Billingsley has been spiraling downward for a few seasons now and should not be counted on as more than a later-round flyer for a team desperate for some strikeout potential. He simply has not shown the mental makeup to sustain any kind of prolonged big league success. Lilly, Harang and Capuano make for decent spot starts in Dodger stadium games, especially in the evenings when the air gets heavy. Nathan Eovaldi is an option when injury strikes one of the five starters.

Target: Chris Capuano. Capuano enjoyed a nice bounce-back season with the Mets in 2011. While his overall numbers leave a little be to desired, there could be some value here in deeper leagues. Capuano posted a very strong strikeout rate of 8.13 K/9 to go along with a nice 2.56 BB/9. He’s never posted strong metrics like this in the past, but with his current MDP at only 384, it wouldn’t cost much to find out if it’s real or not.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Javy Guerra (R)212.311.18381846.2 
Kenley Jansen (R)52.851.04962653.2 

Chasing Saves: After a poor finish to the 2010 season, Jonathan Broxton could not prove his health in 2011 and spent most of his final season in L.A. on the disabled list. The Dodgers deployed the dreaded committee approach, even turning to veteran Vicente Padilla for a short period of time. Eventually however, rookie Javy Guerra took the reins and did an admirable job. Guerra’s metrics weren’t incredibly impressive, but he has good stuff and was able to get the job done. One thing is obvious though: strikeout artist Kenley Jansen is the future closer in L.A. Standing 6′5″, 250 pounds with a high 90s heater, Jansen looks the role. After striking out a remarkable 96 batters in just 53.2 innings (16.1 K/9!), he has raised the eyebrows of would-be fantasy owners for 2012, so much so that Guerra is actually being drafted four rounds later than Jansen according to MDP. There is no question who the more dominating relief pitcher is. However, owners looking for saves need to be careful here. Guerra is the closer and has done nothing to lose his position. Jansen is also more valuable to the Dodgers pitching 75-plus innings out of a setup role than he is being regulated to merely ninth inning detail. It’s easy to get sucked in by the metrics, especially in the wake of Craig Kimbrel’s breakout season, but if you’re looking for saves, Guerra is the place to start.

Final Thoughts

Outside of the standout performances turned in by Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, 2011 was a season to forget for the Dodgers. A potential resurgence by Andre Ethier will be critical to the team’s offensive success in 2012. They will also rely heavily on Dee Gordon to provide a spark at the top of the lineup and wreck havoc on the base paths. Otherwise, we can likely expect more of the same in 2012.

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