Spring training is officially underway, which means that it's time to get ready for your fantasy baseball drafts. As part of RotoBaller's ongoing effort to help you win your leagues, we're previewing all 30 MLB teams. In these articles, we discuss each team's offseason moves, as well as their hitters, pitchers, and prospects.
Today's installment covers the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers Team Outlook, and previews their potential fantasy baseball contributions.
Editor's note: for even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
Most of the Dodgers’ offseason moves involved bringing back prominent players after they tested free agency. Justin Turner, Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen and Chase Utley were all members of the 2016 Dodgers who the team let test free agency this offseason, but they all agreed to contracts to rejoin the team. The Dodgers said goodbye to outfielder Josh Reddick, veteran utility man Howie Kendrick and oft-injured lefty starter Brett Anderson. They also added a new potential leadoff man in acquiring second baseman Logan Forsythe from Tampa via trade, and signed veteran free agent reliever Sergio Romo.
The Dodgers have a number of fantasy options in the lineup and at the top of that list in reigning N.L. Rookie of the Year Corey Seager. He was already a highly-touted young prospect going into the 2016 season, but he took it to another level, slashing .308/.365/.512 and finishing with a 6.1 WAR, second in the N.L. He’ll be snatched up in fantasy drafts by the end of the second round.
Fantasy owners will also find some good options elsewhere on the Dodgers infield. Justin Turner was brought back after testing free agency after a career year in which he hit .275/.339/.493 and was quite the fantasy value. He won’t fly under the radar as much this year and is a top-10 third baseman going into 2017. Logan Forsythe should provide good pop and run-scoring ability if he gets consistent at-bats atop the Dodgers’ lineup, and veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez’s consistency and track record keep him ranked among the top-15 first basemen, even after a down year in 2016. Yasmani Grandal was a bargain for fantasy owners who grabbed him in the late rounds last season, as he really emerged as the Dodgers starter and led all fantasy eligible catchers in home runs in 2016 with 27. His power and OBP skills get him ranked as RotoBaller’s sixth best catcher going into 2017.
The waters get a little muddier for fantasy owners in the Dodgers’ outfield, but Joc Pederson still has plenty of upside and is only 24 going into 2017. Pederson hit .246/.352/.495 with 25 homers last season, mostly playing against right handed pitching. The Dodgers have indicated they hope to get him in more playing time against lefty pitching this season, so if he can emerge as a more of an everyday player this season, he could end up being a fantasy bargain if picked up in the middle rounds. All eyes will be on Yasiel Puig in Spring Training, as he’s mostly been a fantasy disappointment in recent years. The Dodgers still hope he can reign in his talent and force his way into the everyday lineup, but after an up-and-down 2016 – literally – he will need to show some real improvement. Fantasy owners should also keep their eyes on Andrew Toles, who had a .314/.365/.505 line in 115 plate appearances late last season.
There are a number of big arms on the Dodgers’ pitching staff, but none bigger than Clayton Kershaw, a starter so dominant that a case can be made for him to be drafted number one overall in fantasy leagues. A back injury limited him to just 21 starts last year, but he was dominant when healthy, going 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and an astounding 15.64 K/BB. He did not have surgery this offseason and all indications are that he is healthy, and should be drafted accordingly.
Kershaw understandably gets top billing here, but there are a number of other solid fantasy options in the Dodgers’ rotation. Kenta Maeda was the most healthy and consistent Dodgers starter last season, and he has worked to increase his stamina and workload going into 2017. Rich Hill battled injury issues, but he was dominant when he did pitch and earned himself a new three-year contract with L.A. Both Maeda and Hill should be targeted in fantasy drafts between the 10th and 12th rounds.
Julio Urias burst onto the scene last season as an extremely promising young prospect, and he still hold s a lot of that promise going into 2017 at just age 20. His innings will be limited again, however, so fantasy owners will have to draft with the idea that he might spend some time in the minors or in extended spring training. The Dodgers also have some veterans that could hold some late round fantasy value. Brandon McCarthy is probably the safest bet in this category, but lefty Scott Kazmir could figure into the fantasy conversation this season as he did have a solid first half in 2016 before injury issues cropped up. In 18 first-half starts in 2016, Kazmir was 7-3 with a 4.52 ERA and a 9.8 K/9.
In the bullpen, Kenley Jansen remains one of the top closers in the game and a true workhorse. His 47 saves in 2016 were career high for him and he also posted a career lows in ERA (1.83) and WHIP (0.67). The Dodgers added Sergio Romo this offseason, who also has closing experience, but he’ll likely be setting up for Jansen most days.
With blue chip prospects like Seager and Urias recently promoted to the big leagues, most of the Dodgers current crop of top prospects is at least two or three seasons away, so we’re not expected to see many big time debuts with the major league team in 2017. However, young catcher Austin Barnes has an outside chance of making a fantasy impact this season. He’s set to make the team as Grandal’s backup, but as a righty bat, he could get the bulk of starts versus southpaws. He hasn’t shown much at the big league level in limited time, but he was a .299/.388/.439 hitter in the minors, and he even has some experience playing second and third. With some more regular at-bats and the potential to add positional eligibility, the stars could align for Barnes to be a deep-league fantasy option.
The Dodgers are going into 2017 as one of the best teams in baseball and the fantasy options reflect that. With a top bat like Seager and elite arms like Kershaw and Jansen, there will be Dodgers off the board early in fantasy drafts, and plenty of other options in the later rounds for fantasy owners to fill out lineups.