The kings of payroll can claim no legitimate throne, having been bounced early in the playoffs and losing the offseason to the Padres or the White Sox or someone else. They’ve made moves, no doubt, consistently trading players they’d just acquired, but to what end? Efficiency, no doubt, but also to give fantasy owners a bit of a headache. Despite trading Kemp, the Dodgers have a crowded outfield that’s likely to feature a platoon in center and a platoon in left, and that doesn’t address whatever it is Andre Ethier is going to do. The rotation additions are fantasy friendly though, as Brandon McCarthy escapes the offensive environments of Arizona and New York and lands in the much more neutral Chavez Ravine. Similarly, Brett Anderson will try to stay on the mound in a place much better suited to success than Coors, where he actually was pretty good anyway. A deep roster, pitching staff, and predictable back of the bullpen makes for a fantasy-friendly lineup, platoons or not.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
Clayton Kershaw – SP
He just put together one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory, aided by a league-wide decline in offense. He was one of two pitchers two crack 200 strikeouts without topping 200 innings, ultimately ranking seventh overall in MLB despite five missed starts. He led the league in strikeout rate and was eighth in the league in walk rate. He’s really good, and given the chance, I’d draft him over any other pitcher.
Zack Greinke – SP
He’s not Kershaw, but he’s good enough to lead a fantasy rotation. He hasn’t had an ERA over 3.00 in his second tour of the National League, and upped his strikeout rate five percentage points while dropped his walk rate by one point last year. Add in an increased focus on ground balls, and an improved infield (Rollins over Hanley), and Greinke should benefit as much as anybody from the revamped Dodgers. He’s an ideal SP2, but can certainly function higher than that in deeper leagues.
Yasiel Puig – RF
Puig gets the advantage of being CF-eligible in leagues that split the outfield up, but he should be limited to right field in 2015, which might help him focus on hitting. Not that he struggled in 2014, producing a .320 TAv, but the months long power outage he suffered certainly frustrated fantasy owners. He should break 20 home runs for the first time in the coming season, but even if he doesn’t, he’ll net you double digit home runs and stolen bases, while actively helping you in runs and RBI. The losses of Kemp and Ramirez will certainly affect that production, but Kendrick and Rollins should be a more consistent top of the order, and Grandal makes the lineup deeper if less impactful.
Chris Heisey – CF
He has at least a decent shot of splitting center-field duties with Joc Pederson for the early part of the season, but he’s actually a career reverse platoon guy, so it’s easy to see that lasting for a short time. Even if he does hold down the gig, he acts as a suppressant to Pederson’s value more than providing any of his own.
Up and Coming
Joc Pederson – CF
The obvious candidate for this designation, it appears the Dodgers are finally ready to commit to their young outfielder, at least in a part time role to open the season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing given his previous struggles against same side pitching, and while it will reduce his overall opportunities, it should allow him to avoid getting into ruts as easily. He’s not necessarily someone to target in points leagues, as his constant deep counts mean he’s going to rack up strikeouts. Double-digit home runs and stolen bases are modest but reasonable expectations for Pederson’s first season. He should have more RBI than runs in 2015, as he should be a down-order hitter in a deep Dodgers lineup.
Yasmani Grandal – C
There’s not an ideal spot for Grandal, but this one is as good as any. He won’t hit for average, and Chavez Ravine isn’t a great spot for moderate power hitters, but it’s better than PETCO. Catcher is weak enough that Grandal’s .411 slugging percentage (only slightly above league average) was 31 points above the league average for catchers. Pair that with his solid walk rate, and you’ve got a productive catcher in real life that really only helps in home runs in fantasy. If he can improve on the average, he’ll rocket up the catcher rankings though, and it’s reasonable to expect at least a small improvement if he can cut down on the strikeouts.
What You See Is What You Get
Juan Uribe – 3B
Smiles, clubhouse antics, and the freshest styles are givens for Uribe, who has transformed himself from the utter failure of the first two years of his contract to a valuable piece of a contending team. What that means for fantasy is that he’s a more than able fill-in in shallower leagues, and a passable starter in deeper leagues. There’s nothing sexy here, except for Uribe himself, but low double-digit homers with mid .270s average can be expected.
Adrian Gonzalez – 1B
Gonzalez remains productive, but there are clearly limits to what he can accomplish. He carried the Dodgers for a time early in the season, but hit a summer swoon that took a toll on his season numbers. Still, he’s a lock to play in almost every game and hit about 25 home runs. He’s generally good for a .280-or-higher average and 100-plus RBI as well. If the new top of the Dodgers lineup is as good at getting on base as anticipated, he’s going to have a massive number of RBI opportunities.
Jimmy Rollins – SS
Don’t mistake his placement here for not being valuable, given the state of the shortstop position, Rollins’ ability to hit near a league average level is quite worthwhile. That said, he’s extremely consistent, and can be relied on for 15-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases despite his advanced age. People will likely avoid him at age 36, but aside from 2013, he’s been remarkably good year in and year out, especially in fantasy formats. Hitting atop a more dynamic lineup than he was in Philly should only boost his stock.
Howie Kendrick – 2B
Both of the Dodgers’ new middle infielders are known for their consistency. For Kendrick that means a .285-or-better average and 10 or more stolen bases.
Carl Crawford – LF
This is going to get old, especially when we get to the pitchers, but Crawford is actually pretty good when healthy. He’s hit .283 and .300 each of the last two years, which will surprise anyone who assumed he died during his time in Boston. He stole 23 bases in 370 plate appearances and he can be expected to receive the same amount of playing time this year between injuries and what should be a strict platoon with Scott Van Slyke.
Scott Van Slyke – LF
He’s not likely to repeat his .297 batting average, but he’s a lefty masher and cranking double-digit homers despite limited playing time isn’t out of the question.
Hyun-Jin Ryu – SP
Brandon McCarthy – SP
Brett Anderson – SP
The back end of the Dodgers rotation has its fair share of question marks and upside. All three of these starters represent varying forms of injury risk, but so too do they share massive potential. Ryu has been better than expected since arriving stateside, but he barely eclipsed 150 innings last year, so while he’s great on a rate basis, whether he can break the 200-inning barrier is a question. Speaking of 200 inning barriers, McCarthy topped it for the first time in his career last year, and was a different pitcher upon arriving in New York. The Dodgers are banking on him carrying those changes over, and have loaded up the infield with sure-handed fielders, which should play well with his ground-ball tendencies. There’s a good chance that Anderson doesn’t make double-digit starts, but he’s always been good when healthy. He’s worth a late round flier, but expectations should be tempered.
Prospects for 2015
Joe Wieland – SP
Zach Lee – SP
Either one could be the first guy called up when Anderson/McCarthy/Ryu needs to skip a start, though stretching out Juan Nicasio is just as viable an option. They’re useful streaming options in deep leagues if they get a start here or there, but neither is going to make or break your fantasy season
Alexander Guerrero – 2B
There was a second when it looked like he was going to matter before the Dodgers flipped Andrew Heaney for Howie Kendrick. The guy can hit and has moderate sock, but his defensive limitations make it really hard for him to earn playing time. He’ll be a backup in the infield, but it’s likely Enrique Hernandez gets a shot before Guerrero does.
Yes there are multiple relief prospects who should see time for LA, but they’re not going to see the closers role anytime soon so it shouldn’t be relevant to most fantasy leagues. No, Julio Urias and Corey Seager won’t see more than a September call-up.