The Dodgers have won over 90 games in each of the last four seasons while failing to make the World Series in each year. Their last World Series appearance came in 1988, which they won. Los Angeles has six division championships over the last nine seasons. LA scored 58 more runs than 2015 (667) with some regression in runs allowed (43) due to Clayton Kershaw being injured.
To be more competitive in their push for a World Series title, they will need to score more runs (725 – 7th in the NL). The Dodgers finished 8th in the National League in home runs (189). I thought LA did a nice job on the pitching side when Kershaw went down. They ranked 5th in the NL in ERA (3.70) while showing surprising strength in their bullpen ERA (3.35 ERA – best in major league baseball). Their relievers had 32 wins, 22 losses, and 47 saves.
Los Angeles resigned 2B Chase Utley, 3B Justin Turner, SP Rich Hill, and CL Kenley Jansen. They lost OF Josh Reddick, RP J.P. Howell, and SP Brett Anderson to free agency. They acquired 2B Logan Forsythe for Tampa for SP Jose De Leon. OF Howie Kendrick was sent to Philly for 1B Darin Ruf and OF Darnell Sweeney. The Dodgers moved C Carlos Ruiz to Seattle for RP Vidal Nuno. RP Sergio Romo and OF Franklin Gutierrez were added for to strength their OF depth and bullpen.
The starting rotation has the best pitcher in the game plus two solid major league arms – Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. Rich Hill continues to pitch the best ball of his career at the backend of his career while Julio Urias is the upside arm.
They have a top closer with enough hard throwers to man the 7th and 8th inning. The key is the success of their lefty relievers.
The starting lineup has a balance of youth and veteran leadership. The growth of OF Joc Pederson and OF Yasiel Puig would push this team to another level. SS Corey Seager is the real deal. The only position up for grabs is left field.
This team will be in the playoff hunt again while failing one ace short of a World Series title.
1. 2B Logan Forsythe
The first thing that stands out when I look at Forsythe is his sharp decline in RBI chances. In 2016, he had 48 fewer plate appearance than 2015, but Logan has 172 less runners on base when he came to the plate. This just shows how much weakness the Rays had at the bottom of the batting order. His CTBA (.352) stayed in line with his 2015 success (.354) with further length added to his hits (AVH – 1.681). Forsythe has a league average walk rate (8.1) while fading in his K rate (22.4). His best success came in August in 2016 (.290 with seven HRs and 17 RBI over 93 at bats). Logan struggled in May (.200 – missed three weeks with a fracture in his right shoulder blade), July (.196), and September (.233). His HR/FB rate (14.7) was career best (9.4 in his career) while producing fewer fly balls (35.2 percent). Steady player with his best two years coming in Tampa in 2015 and 2016. Forsythe should maintain about 15 HRs with some batting average risk if his K rate stays below the league average. He looks to be a weak link in RBIs if he keeps the leadoff job all season. His skill set is more geared to be a bottom of the order hitter and someone else may emerge on the Dodgers’ roster.
2. SS Corey Seager
Seager hit the ground running in his rookie season. His AVH (1.663) fell in line with 2015 season in the minors while his previous resume points to more length on his hits. He had a strong CTBA (.391) with support on his minor-league resume. His walk rate (7.9) was league average. Over four years in the minors, Corey hit .307 with 62 HRs, 278 RBI, and 28 SBs over 1523 at bats. His K rate (18.3) was slightly lower than his 2016 season (19.4). Seager dominated righties (.334 with 21 HRs over 431 at bats) with some work to do vs. LH pitching (.250 with five HRs and 19 RBI over 196 at bats). From May until August, he hit .329 with 21 HRs and 50 RBI. More than half of his HRs came in May and June (15 HRs over 215 at bats). Corey has a very good HR/FB rate (18.1) to start his career, but he hits a low number of fly balls (28.9 percent). Great swing with 30+ HRs power while offering an edge in batting average. I expect him to win a batting title before it’s all said and done. His runs will be an asset while he needs to improve as a run producer (13 percent RBI rate). His floor should be .290 with 90+ runs, 25+ HRs, 80+ RBI and a chance at double digit steals. He’ll hit third by the end of the season.
3. OF Justin Turner
After drifting his way through the majors for the previous five seasons, Justin finally earned a starting job at age 31 and he responded in a big way. His AVH (1.791) was a career high with improvement in his last four years. The jump in power could lead to a Fantasy owner thinking he had some OJ added to his diet. Over the last three seasons, Turner has shown strength in his RBI rate (17) supporting a middle of the order opportunity. His K rate (17.2) is favorable, but weaker than his resume (15.6) while having a career average walk rate (7.7). He struggled with lefties (.209 with five HRs and 14 RBI over 172 at bats) with high success against RH pitching (.305 with 22 HRs and 76 RBI over 384 at bats). After a slow start in April and May (.235 with three HRs and 16 RBI over 166 at bats), Justin was exceptional over the next three months (.291 with 21 HRs and 60 RBI over 292 at bats). His growth in power has been due to a much more balance swing path over the last two seasons leading a career high fly ball rate (40.0) in 2016 and a career high HR/FB rate (14.8). LA signed him to a four-year $64 million contract in December, which seems insane with his short resume of success. I believe in his growth and expect another 20/80 season with a positive batting average and a handful of speed.
4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
For the third time in five seasons, Adrian has come up short in power (18 HRs). His AVH (1.52) was his lowest rate over this period while having a rebound in his CTBA (.359). Both his K rate (18.5) and walk rate (8.7) fell short of his career averages (17.4 and 9.9). Gonzalez needs 1046 hits to reach 3000, which requires 174 per season with six more years played. His bat lost value against lefties (.244 with two HRs and 16 RBI over 168 at bats) while offering an edge against RH pitching (.303 with 16 HRs and 74 RBI over 400 at bats). His best success came in July and August (.323 with 10 HRs and 40 RBI over 198 at bats). Adrian had a poor swing path leading to a sharp rise in ground balls (46.2 percent – 40.8 career average) and career low fly ball rate (27.5 – 36.7 in his career). His HR/FB rate (14.4) came in just below his career average (15.4). Long resume of success in the majors. This season he’ll need to correct his swing to produce more fly balls and regain some value against lefties. Pretty much a 25/90 hitter with more upside with a better thought process.
5. OF Yasiel Puig
Puig has failed to live up to expectations in back-to-back seasons. His CTBA (.338) is well behind his early resume with a career low in AVH (1.580). He’s never been a good run producer (14 RBI rate in 2016 – 13 percent in his career). His K rate (20.1) is league average while almost matching his career average (20.6). Yasiel did have regression in his walk rate (6.5 – career low). He suffered a hamstring injury in early June leading to almost three weeks on the DL. Over the first two months of the seasons with starting at bats, Puig hit .239 with five HRs, 20 RBI, and four SBs over 184 at bats. The Dodgers grew tired of his act in July, which led to a trip back to AAA. In the minors, he hit .348 with four HRs and 12 RBI over 69 at bats. Yasiel played better in September with LA (.281 with four HRs and 11 RBI) while failing to get full time at bats (57). His HR/FB rate (12.0) has been flat in the last three seasons (2014 – 11.1 and 2015 – 13.1), which was well below his explosive rookie season (22.18). With two years left on his contract Puig has a lot to prove. Ultra-talented, but his lack of thought process leads to mistake and bad swing. The Fantasy world has written him off based on his low ADP (225) in 15 team league. If he’s an OF4, his goal for production will be much lower than a top three pick. If he gets over 500 at bats, 75/15/75/10 with a positive batting average seems a like an easy floor. The downside is that he’s never driven in over 50 runs in his career.
6. OF Joc Pederson
I owned Pederson in just about every league in 2016 as I thought he was poised for a breakout season. The Dodgers didn’t commit to him, which led to fewer at bats despite showing growth. His K rate (27.3) improved slightly with continued strength in his walk rate (13.2). He finished with only 64 at bats against lefties (.125 with one HR and 10 RBI). His swing moved to league average against RH pitching (.269 with 24 HRs and 58 RBI over 342 at bat). Joc missed about three weeks in late June due to a right shoulder injury coming in a crash with the outfield wall. His best month came in September (.286 with seven HRs and 15 RBI over 63 at bats). Pederson had a huge HR/FB rate (23.1) in 2016 even with a slight drop in his fly ball rate (39.7). Over six years in the minors, he hit .303 with 84 HRs, 271 RBI, and 113 SBs over 1649 at bats. There’s a better player here that most expect, but it’s tough to trust the manager of the Dodgers to play him against lefties. In addition, his speed in the minors hasn’t translated as a value in the majors. There’s a special player here if you want to believe, but a Fantasy owner may only be paid seventy cents on the dollar in 2017. I’ll lower my bar to .250 with 30+ HRs, 80+ RBI, and double digit SBs over 500 at bats knowing he still has explosive upside. I’m buying him at his current ADP (204) in 15 team leagues.
7. C Yasmani Grandal
My writeup on Grandal in 2016 was positive (here’s my closing three lines: Great approach with more upside in his batting average. His swing has 25 HR upside with added value in runs due to his high walk total. Possible .270 with 60+ runs, 20+ HRs and 60+ RBI.), but I backed off him in the high stakes market after he suffered a forearm injury late in spring training. He started the year on the DL, but he only missed about 10 days. His K rate (25.4) had more risk than expected while maintaining a high walk rate (14.0). After struggling over the first half of the season (.179 with seven HRs and 29 RBI over 173 at bats), Yasmani caught fire over the last three months of the year (.267 with 20 HRs and 43 RBI over 217 at bats). His batting average had risk against both RH (.229) and LH (.224) pitching while delivering most of his power vs. righties (23 HRs and 60 RBI over 314 at bats). His HR/FB rate (25.2) was well above his previous success (16.3 in 2015). His bat had much more value at home (.278 with 20 HRs and 50 RBI over 198 at bats). Could be an exciting catching option with a few more at bats. Possible 30 HRs based on his rising AVH (2.090). I repeat my 2016 evaluation – possible neutral hitter with 60+ runs, 20+ HRs, and 60+ RBI.
8. OF Andrew Toles
Toles had enough success late in 2016 in the majors (.314 with three HRs, 16 RBI, and one SB over 105 at bats) to give him the inside track for the left field job. Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .309 with 17 HRs, 143 RBI, and 123 SBs over 1262 at bats. His K rate (16.9) was respectable in the minor with regression in the majors (21.7 percent). He had low walk rate (4.9) in the minors while improving in 2016 (5.7 in the minors and 7.1 in LA). Andrew missed the entire 2015 after being released by the Rays in spring training. The previous year he had a run in with the manager leading to him pulling away from baseball for personal reasons. In the majors in August last season, Toles a had August (11-for-20 with eight runs, three HRs, and 12 RBI) before fading in September (.213 over 47 at bats with no HRs and three RBI). In his small sample size with the Dodgers, he had a ground ball swing (48.1 percent). With only 56 at bats on his resume at AAA (.321 with two HRs, seven RBI, and one SB over 56 at bats), I would temper my expectations in his rookie season. Maybe the new and improved version of Carl Crawford.
9. OF Andre Ethier
Ethier missed all but four games of the 2016 season with after breaking his right leg late in spring training. Here’s a look at his 2016 player profile: Ethier looked like the odd man out in 2015, but injuries in the outfield gave him a chance at starting at bats against righties. In limited playing time over the first three months of the year, Andre hit .270 with 31 runs, 10 HRs, 28 RBI, and one SB in 215 at bats. Even with success over the second half of the year (.322), he only had three HRs and 25 RBI in 180 at bats. LA only gave him 45 at bats against lefties (.200 with no HRs and six RBI). His swing did have value against RH pitching (.306 with 14 HRs and 47 RBI in 350 at bats). Ethier had strength in his LD rate (26.3) with his best HR/FB rate (12.3) since 2012. Nothing more than a platoon player with no clear path to a starting job. This season he’ll have less players in his way to get at bats against righties. LA owes him $17.5 million this year with vesting option of another $17.5 million in 2018 if he gets 550 plate appearance in 2017. Only a bench option in deep leagues.
C Austin Barnes – Over six seasons in the minors, Barnes hit .299 with 46 HRs, 267 RBI, and 61 SBs over 2201 at bats. He has a high walk rate (11.5) while keeping the strikeout under control (11.7 percent). At age 27, Austin only has 61 at bats in the majors (.180 with no HRs and three RBI). His walk rate (14.9) remained an asset with a weaker K rate (20.3). Sneaky backup option, but he’ll get limited at bats.
1B Darin Ruf – LA added Ruf in the offseason to provide power off the bench. Over 737 at bats in the majors, Darin has 35 HRs and 96 RBI while striking out 27.5 percent of the time.
IF Chase Utley – This season Chase will be downgraded to be a utility player. He’s career .278 hitter with 250 HRs, 977 RBI, and 145 SBs over 14 seasons. Last year he hit .252 with 14 HRs and 52 RBI over 512 at bats. Only an injury cover with no long-term value.
OF Franklin Gutierrez – I’m sure Gutierrez will work his way into platoon at bats against LH pitching. In 2016, he hit .280 vs. lefties with 12 HRs and 32 RBI over 186 at bats while playing well vs. LH pitching in 2015 (.317 with eight HRs and 19 RBI over 104 at bats). In his 11 years in the majors, Franklin hit .257 with 96 HRs, 353 RBI, and 78 SBs over 2976 at bats. Nice NL-only player for short money.
1. SP Clayton Kershaw
If Kershaw didn’t get hurt last season, he might have had his best year of his career. He improved his walk rate to 0.7, which is just amazing for a pitching with his K ability. From April 21st to June 15th over 11 starts, Clayton had nine games with double-digit Ks including six straight outings. During this stretch, he had 113 Ks and five walks over 86 innings. He allowed two runs or fewer in 19 of his 21 starts. LH batters only .138 with two walk and 52 Ks over 138 at bats. Kershaw went 8-1 at home with a 1.08 ERA and 86 Ks over 75 innings. His AVB (93.8) was a step below 2015 (94.2) while falling in his with his previous three seasons. Batters had no chance against his curveball (.144 BAA) and slider (.161 BAA) while also dominating with his four-seam fastball (.232 BAA). Clayton has done a nice job keep the ball on the ground over the last three seasons (over 50 percent). Not much you can say about a pitcher with a 126-60 record, 2.37 ERA, and 1918 Ks over 1760 innings. Pure edge with impact upside….20 wins with a sub 2.00 ERA and a chance at 300 Ks. The back issue that led to 10 missed weeks shouldn’t be an issue headed into the season.
2. SP Kenta Maeda
Maeda will go down as great value pickup for the Dodgers if he pitches well in just one more season. He signed an eight-year $25 million deal in 2016. Considering Kenta had a successful resume in Japan (97-67 with a 2.39 ERA and 1233 Ks in 1509.2 innings), his contract seemed low when reflecting at the high dollars thrown in the majors. Both his walk rate (2.6) and K rate (9.2) had a parallel move compared to resume in Japan (1.9 walk rate and 7.4 K rate). He walked 0.7 batters more while having almost a 3-to-1 increase in Ks (1.8). His arm had the most value against righties (.213). After a strong April (3-1 with a 1.41 ERA and 28 Ks in 32 innings), the league appeared to catch up with him. Over his last 27 starts, Kenta had a 3.94 ERA with his only success coming in June (2.52 ERA). Some of his decline was due to 10 HRs allowed over 54 innings in July and August. His ERA came in at 2.95 before the break and 4.25 afterward. Maeda has a below league average fastball (90.9), but batters only hit .212 vs. his four-seamer. Both his changeup (.220 BAA) and slider (.173 BAA) graded as edge pitches. He needs to work on his curveball (.400 BAA and .671 SLG). Twenty-three of his 32 starts resulted in six innings or fewer. Some cracks in his rookie season, but he was tough to hit (.229) while showing K ability. His command should improve in his second season leading fewer mistakes leaving the park. I’m going to say he finishes closer to a 3.00 ERA with a chance at 200+ Ks with growth in his innings pitched. Zack Greinke at 1/8 of the cost.
3. SP Rich Hill
Hill pitched his way out of the majors in 2013 when he lost his command (6.8 walk rate). This led to a 6.28 ERA with 51 Ks in 38.2 innings. Over the next two seasons, Rich tried to reinvent his game in the minors. Over the first half of 2015 as a reliever, he walked 21 batters in 21.2 innings leading to him being released by the Nationals in late June. The Red Sox took another flier on him over that summer. In five starts at AAA, Hill had a 2.78 ERA with 29 Ks in 32.1 innings. HIs walk rate (2.5) at Pawtucket was the key to his improvement. I don't know happened in the majors in September, but Rich had the best command of his career (1.6 walk rate) leading to a plus K rate (11.2). He dominated both RH (.138) and LH (.158) batters. His AFB (90.2) was a step down from his last few years in the majors while throwing his curveball 42.2 percent of the time plus an occasional changeup. Entering 2016, I was gun shy of Rick especially after his poor spring (15 runs, 27 baserunners, and 15 walks over 12 innings). Once the lights went on in the regular season, Hill was a totally different pitcher. Over 14 starts with the A’s, he had a 2.09 ERA with 90 Ks over 76 innings while missing the month of June with a groin injury. In July, Rich developed a blister on his pitching hand. This led to over three weeks missed time with the Dodgers. With LA, he had a Kershaw-like walk rate (1.3) leading a 1.83 ERA over 34.1 innings with 39 Ks. His AFB (91.1) is below the league average but batters only .207 against it. His curveball (.185 BAA) is elite pitch as well. Over the last two years, Hill parlayed his success to $6 million in Oakland and then a three-year $48 million contract with the Dodgers. Ignore his spring and except that he’s found the fountain of youth. His stuff had plus value against RH (.188) and LH (.218) batters. Possible sub 3.00 ERA with repeated command and 200+ Ks.
4. SP Scott Kazmir
After throwing six shutout innings with one hit, no walks, and five Ks in his first start of the season, Kazmir was drilled for 30 runs, 67 baserunners, and 12 HRs over his next 45.2 innings to push his ERA to 5.23. Over his next 12 starts covering 58 innings, Scott had a 3.57 ERA with 69 Ks. He developed a neck issue in August leading to a down month (5.68 ERA) and a trip to the DL. Kazmir struggled with RH batters (.264 with 17 HRs over 383 at bats). He had improvement in his K rate (8.8) while walking more batters (3.4 per nine). His AVB (92.0) was one mph lower than 2015 (93.0). Batters had a tough time with his changeup (.204 BAA), slider (.222 BAA), and sinker (.229 BAA) while drilling his four-seam fastball (.308 with eight HRs over 234 at bats). I’m concerned with his neck and rib issue, but there is enough good in his season if he regains his health and throws more strikes. Pitching in a great ballpark and he will be discounted due to his poor season. His value will be determined by his spring training news and success.
5. SP Julio Urias
The Dodgers have done their best to try and limit the innings of Urias early in his career. Over four seasons in the minors, he has a 12-8 record with a 2.66 ERA and 313 Ks over 267.1 innings. Julio threw the ball well at AAA (5-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 49 Ks over 45 innings) leading to his call-up to the majors. After a rough debut (three runs and nine base runners over 2.2 innings), Urias pitched well for the Dodgers over six starts in June (3.56 ERA with 38 Ks over 30.1 innings). LA was forced to use him in a limited role over the last two months of the season (4-0 with a 1.96 ERA and 36 Ks over 36.2 innings). He did struggle with righties (.284). His AFB (93.3) was league average. Batters had a tough time with his slider (.227 BAA) and changeup (.177 BAA). Julio had a weaker walk rate (3.6) in the majors. Upside arm with only a chance to pitch 150 to 160 innings this season. Once he gets down his fastball command, his ERA will push under 3.00 with plus K ability.
6. SP Alex Wood
Alex had more bad than good over his first six starts in 2016 (5.18 ERA). He battled his command over his first four starts (11 walks over 21 innings) while showing a spark on April 29th (one run over seven innings with nine Ks). Over his last four starts in May, he allowed two runs or fewer in each game leading to a 2.31 ERA with 34 Ks in 23.1 innings. Unfortunately, Wood suffered an elbow injury that ended up requiring surgery in late July. He returned to the mound on September 21st as a reliever. In his last four appearances, Alex threw four shutout innings with four Ks. His AFB (91.9) had more velocity than 2015 (89.8). His changeup (.267 BAA) still isn’t where it needs to be. His best pitch is a curveball (.176 BAA). Over four years in the majors, Wood has a 3.35 ERA with 452 Ks over 499.1 innings. His K rate (9.8) was the best of his short career in 2016 with a step back in his walk rate (3.0). Upside arm that may emerge as the 5th starter for the Dodgers in 2017. In 2014 in the majors, he had an ERA of 2.78 over 171.2 innings so make sure you don’t lose track of him in spring training.
7. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
In 2016, Hyun-Jin missed most of the season with a slow recovery from his shoulder surgery plus surgery in September to remove some debris from his left elbow. Here’s a look at his 2016 profile: Ryu developed a left shoulder injury in the middle of spring training in 2015 that required surgery at the end of May to repair a torn labrum. Hyun-Jin lost 20 lbs. over the winter headed into the 2016 season, which is good sign. He started throwing off the mound in the middle of January. There is a chance he will be ready by the start of the regular season. Over two seasons in the majors, Ryu went 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA and 293 Ks in 344 innings. His second season in the majors was limited due to the early issues with his left shoulder problems. He has a plus walk rate (2.0) with a below average K rate (7.7). His AFB (90.9) had more life in 2014. Ryu threw his changeup (.303 BAA - .161 in 2013) as his second-best pitch followed by a plus curveball (.171 BAA) and a solid slider (.232 BAA). The normal recovery time from a torn labrum that required surgery is nine to 12 months. Over seven season in Korea, Hyun-Jin went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA and 1238 Ks in 1269 innings. Solid resume and his lack of health may create a discounted price point on draft day. This season Ryu doesn’t have a clear path to a starting job. The last report has him throwing with no issue. Player to watch if he lands a starting job.
8. CL Kenley Jansen
Over the last two years, Jansen had just about had the same stats for walks (1.4 per nine) and strikeouts (2015 – 13.8 and 2016 -13.6). He set a career high in save (47) while having the lowest ERA (1.83) and WHIP (0.670) of his career. Righties had no chance against him (.109 with five extra base hits in 119 at bats) while dominating LH batters (.191) as well. Kenley had an ERA under 2.00 in each month except August (3.97). His AFB (95.1) had more value than 2015 (93.5). He throws a cutter as his best pitch (.153 BAA) while batters came up empty most of the time against his sinker (no hits in 11 at bats) and slider (two hits in 21 at bats). Jansen does pitch up in the zone (54.6 percent fly ball rate in 2016) so HRs can emerge if he’s not on his game. One of the top closing options in the game. LA tends to pitch well so he’ll rank near the top of the league in saves while adding value in ERA, WHIP, and Ks.
9. RP Pedro Baez
Baez looks close to be closer worthy, but he can struggle at times. His K rate (10.1) has been elite in back-to-back seasons while being tougher to hit in 2016 (.195). He did have regression his walk rate (2.7) while showing HR risk (1.3 per nine). His stuff had an edge over both righties (.214) and lefties (1.60), but he did allow eight HRs over 173 at bats to RH batters. Pedro blew up in May (5.91 ERA) and in August (7.50 ERA and four HRs allowed over 12 innings). In July and in September combined, he didn’t allow a run over 26.1 innings with 29 Ks. His AFB (97.4) is electric with batters only hitting .178 vs. his four-seamer. Baez threw a plus changeup (.216 BAA) and slider (.212 BAA) as well. Nice security blanket for LA, but we don’t know if he has the guile to pitch in the 9th.
10. RP Sergio Romo
After four appearances in 2016, Romo was on the DL with a forearm strain. He didn’t return to the majors until July 4th. Over the last three months of the season. Sergio had a 2.63 ERA and 32 Ks in 27.1 innings. Over this stretch he averaged just over two-thirds of an inning per appearance. Romo had success against both RH (.234) and LH (.242) batters. His AFB (87.0) was career low. His number one pitch remains a slider (.167 BAA) while his weak fastball now has plenty of failure risk (sinker – .360 BAA). More of a matchup player now with minimal chance of pitching in a closing role.
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