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Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: Los Angeles Dodgers
Where does Matt Kemp belong on draft boards?
We need a bit more time to say for sure. Kemp's shoulder cleanup surgery, for now, has him on track for opening day. One of the game's finest athletes has matured in recent years, so he knows how he can push his body. He learned a crucial lesson last year in not rushing back from injury, so depending on his recovery, he may not start the season on time.
That educational left hammy strain - and an aggravation not long after his return - cut short his historic early-2012 run and left his swipes column a tad ... well, robbed of output. Oddly enough, he may swap skills, to some degree, this year.
If strength in his shoulder takes its time to come back - as it reportedly did for current teammate Adrian Gonzalez during his final Boston year - he may experience a spring power outage. Kemp may compensate for this potential dead arm by going wild on the base paths.
Of course, how tolerable will any power drop-off prove to your lineup if his bat speed and lift can't elevate him? His natural talents alone could pad his stat sheet, and brass gave him more offensive help this year, but he'll probably have to play through pain and disappointment for a spell.
The easiest answer to the question points to how good he looks as your draft approaches. Maybe you can snag him at the first mixed turn and pair with someone a bit more secure. Early-bird rooms whose drafts actually count may prove skeptical, which would play to the opportunistic.
However, initial mock indications say that few cower in fear. We'll know more in the coming months, but if it's a bunch of stagnant reports on his performance, pickers at the front of a mixed board who want to pass over healthy studs for him will be relying on a whole lot of faith.
What should I expect from the bats LA acquired last summer?
After a disappointing close to 2012, baseball's new payroll kings will more accurately inspect their new haul in each of the pieces' first season. The aforementioned A-Gon joined Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford as part of the Blue's parade of new bats. Chavez Ravine won't aid their revivals.
Han-Ram's healthy shoulder allowed his power to return, but despite a baby-steps upward trend in fly balls, a full season at Dodger Stadium will keep it from reaching its former peak. Plus, the 29-year-old still puts too many into the ground, and his hacker ways continue eroding his batting eye. Four-category contributions still go a long way for his position, though, so he'll probably remain a second-rounder that's stable, if not growth-ready.
Gonzalez, as a lefty bat, will suffer a smidge less at this stadium than his counterparts, though it's hardly advantageous, and he left the yard there just once after his acquisition. His division doesn't exactly have hitter-friendly ambiences, either.
He should surpass 20 homers merely because his shoulder (repaired in 2011) may finally boast full strength. If defenses keep shifting toward his pulls, however, he'll gladly beat them by finding holes, without caring what fantasy owners want. Bank on his run production and batting average skills and rejoice if he reaches 25 homers.
OK, so this is the year you'll want to take a chance on Crawford. At least he'll be even cheaper than he was before his lost 2012, and early reports say recovery from Tommy John surgery won't cost him much - if any - spring training time. He was always a bit of a hacker vulnerable against lefties and on the outside corner, and that came back to bite him, along with many other maladies, in 2011. LA is a big media market, but in baseball terms, it's hardly Boston, at least in reputation.
Discard 2012. Don't write off double-digit homers, but don't count on them, either; recovery from elbow and wrist issues reminds you to remain cautious. Focus instead on the swipes he'd offer if healthy that will come at a decent mixed-league discount - think middle-rounds filler with a bit more upside but less security than the Brett Gardner types.
Fantasy owners remain quite perplexed, but his 2.30 ERA in 28 appearances following his shift to LA, which included a 6-for-6 record on save chances, convinced Ned Colletti that the right-hander deserved to return. After League initially struggled following the uni change, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and bullpen overseer Ken Howell found that League's back side and front elbow weren't working in unison during his delivery. Recalibrating those elements gave more punch to his fastball and boosted his performance.
League's 8.89 K/9 in his time as a Dodger only boosted his seasonal figure to 6.75. Maybe his new approach will get him back up to the 9.16 he posted as a setup man in 2009, but for the most part, he's been a grounder-heavy, strikeout-tepid arm. He still walks too many for that approach, too.
Jansen makes this a prime handcuff situation ... sound familiar? His continued problems with arrhythmia ousted him from action late last summer, but he's expected to make a full recovery with proper treatment and rehab.
When both are healthy, Jansen, who holds the record for the highest K/9 posted in a single season (16.10, 2011), easily holds the better closer profile, even with League's newfound effectiveness. However, at least heading into the season, Don Mattingly seems to favor using Jansen's overpowering ability in pre-ninth spots to make things easier on League. That sad reality is what many fantasy drafters of Jansen will face.
But how long will that last? All things equal, Jansen remains one of the top fantasy RPs, merely for his punch-outs. Holds leaguers shouldn't devalue his role, but the standard formatters will have to bide time with his K's while waiting for him to contribute closures. Money means League will start out in the role, but those who place his value higher than a third mixed fireman - and don't pair him with his much better understudy - invite themselves to get burned.
How will Hollywood treat the newer pieces of this rotation?
Unlike the hitters, these hurlers will enjoy their new home and the lineup that goes with it.
Zack Greinke, of course, doesn't rely on his team's park, despite his homebody splits as a Milwaukee Brewer last year. Still, he prefers the NL and real LA to AL and the in-ridiculously-long-name-only LA he briefly inhabited last year. His positive grounder-fly trend net a bonus in his new expansive dimensions, keeping Greinke on the cusp of fantasy ace-hood.
As a control-based, mistake-limiting southpaw that carries a little extra cushion, Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu looks a lot like David Wells. He's a solid - pun semi-intended - buttress - pun fully intended - for a deep mixed staff.
Facing NL opponents makes every-other-year exceller Josh Beckett a more attractive flier. Good thing he left Boston and just had a down season. His 2.93 ERA in seven starts as a Dodger last year came with 38 K's in 43 frames. As his velocity declines heading into his age-33 campaign, his margin for error shrinks even more, but if his two-seamer can sustain his strike-zone effectiveness, he'll squeeze out one or two more surprising seasons in Ryan Dempster-like fashion.
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