Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: Los Angeles Dodgers

by Nicholas Minnix on January 10, 2012 @ 11:20:48 PDT


KFFL answers some important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Los Angeles Dodgers?

What's next for Matt Kemp?

Well, less than one month after the Blue's center fielder finished a ding dong short of joining the 40-40 club, and shortly after he heard that Ryan Braun was the Senior Circuit's Most Valuable Player, Kemp told the media that he'd be a 50-50 man in 2012.

Los Angeles Dodgers OF Andre Ethier
We hallucinating, or Ethier tripping?

Maybe that'll be good enough for the NL MVP Award, eh? After all, just one year prior, he'd announced that he intended to go 40-40 in 2011, and he essentially delivered. The ink on his eight-year, $160 million extension had been dry for less than a week when he made his latest declaration. He'd already won the 2011 Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards at his position.

It sounds as if the 27-year-old is determined not to let fame and success go to his head, unlike what appeared to occur to him prior to his disastrous 2010 campaign. That plus the statistical floor that Kemp seems to have established could make Kemp a difficult player to project, a task that Fangraphs' Eno Sarris tackles.

There are a couple of major factors to consider when evaluating LA's leading man, and his large increase in walk rate is solely attributable to his elevated total of intentional passes. He's entered the next stratosphere of fantasy baseball value: He looks like a surefire mixed-league first-rounder. But, he's more fallible than other top-notch pickups.

Kemp's case is ideal for the examination of draft strategy, if you go top-shelf. Are you OK with paying $45 for a player who earns only $35, $30 or - it's possible - less because that investment is "safe"? Or would you prefer, whether you save a few bucks or even spend a few more, to buy a player who projects as likelier to give you a better rate of return?

What happened to Andre Ethier's star?

A season after he went .292/.364/.493 in 585 plate appearances and two seasons after he batted .272 with 31 bombs and 106 RBIs, Ethier posted a somewhat deflating .292/.368/.421 slash line in 551 plate appearances. His fantasy baseball plane appears to have leveled off.

The left-handed Kemp complement's power disappeared in a season that ended a few weeks early so that he could undergo an operation to clean up his right knee. Ethier, 30 in April, claimed that the ailing joint hindered him for much of the season. Ned Colletti wasn't convinced; the All-Star didn't mention it until August.

Ethier, a free agent after 2012, has made it a habit of being cryptic, if not quiet. It's obvious that he'll probably be moving on. The knee problem is a good explanation, and there is certainly visual as well as statistical evidence that it affected his performance. Fortunately, nothing about his profile besides the reduced power is different.

The bottom seems to be dropping out of Ethier's roto value at a time when he'll be seeking to up his stock before he hits the market. This season has the look of a fine one in which to buy him.

Closer: Javy Guerra, or Kenley Jansen?

The man who handled the job most often last season: Guerra, who posted a 2.31 ERA, a 7.33 K/9 and a 3.47 BB/9, along with his 21 saves, in 46 2/3 frames. He closed at various times in the minors and boasts mid-90s heat and cutters.

But Guerra, 26, depends on movement to generate outs made on contact. He doesn't fan many, for a backend reliever. As his farm resume shows, he's hittable, which can be deadly when combined with his history of control problems.

The man who shared the role in September: Jansen, who notched a 2.85 ERA, a 16.10 K/9 and a 4.36 BB/9, along with his five saves, in 53 2/3 stanzas. His stuff is pure nastiness, and he didn't give up a run after he returned from a shoulder inflammation in mid-June until September.

But Jansen, 24, has been pitching for less than three years. He also has problems with walks. And ... well, that's about it. His peripherals imply that the sky is the limit.

Guerra's 2011 marks leave room for correction. Jansen is volatile and inexperienced, but his upside is much greater. He has room to improve and demonstrated that he's headed in that direction, making him the more intriguing low-cost investment.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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