Dodgers Hitters - Fantasy Analysis & Projections
All ADPs listed below assume a 12-team fantasy baseball league format, and designate which rounds that player is currently being drafted in on average.
Hanley Ramirez - SS
2013 Stats: 86 games, .345 BA, 1.040 OPS, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 62 R, 10 SB
Current ADP: low 1st / high 2nd
Hanley is and always has been one of the game's most gifted players, regardless of position. When he is on his game, there are not too many players today that can match his blend of consistent line-drive contact, with power and speed. Having a player like him on your fantasy roster can almost carry you to a title, as the production he is capable of delivering at his position is unmatched outside of Tulo of the Rockies. Both of these players come with injury risks, but only Ramirez has shown a propensity to go into the tank so to speak, and start pressing at the plate. There have been periods in Ramirez’s career where he just gets really cold at the plate, and on two different occasions his slumps have really been elongated by his inability to “turn the page” on a few bad at bats; before you know it, he hits .200 for a month. That said, Hanley is fully capable of repeating what he did last season, especially within this star-studded Dodgers lineup. If he were an outfielder or first baseman I would recommend treading carefully and only going for him if he’s there at the bottom of the second round, but because he is a shortstop, I have to say if you are going to pay up for the position, Hanley has to be the target. When right, he is a five-category contributor who has a better health history than Tulo, and when comparing him to Jose Reyes, he really just outshines in three out of five categories. Hanley is your guy at the bottom of Round 1 or early Round 2, especially if you don't have a cheap option at shortstop that you are targeting. Hanley absolutely can be your best player all season long, which is what you ask for from such a high pick. I am going to be bold on this prediction, because of what I've seen him do in just a half season in this lineup, and adding Matt Kemp to the equation is only going to give more opportunities for Hanley to score runs, get pitches to hit and most importantly not feel like he has to carry the team both on the field and in the media. Hanley will have a big year-- take that to the bank and hopefully further to claim your fantasy title at the end of 2014.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .325, 33 HR, 105 RBI, 98 R, 22 SB
Matt Kemp – OF
2013 Stats: 73 GP, .274 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 33 R, 9 SB, .723 OPS
Current ADP: low 3rd - high 5th
Position Battle: Technically, Kemp is going to play everyday and hit in the middle of the lineup, for whichever team he is a part of, but there is a real chance the Dodgers could trade him, and also a real chance that he will not have not fully recovered from two offseason surgeries by the start of the season. He may need some days off early, especially with four starting caliber outfielders on the Dodgers roster.
Kemp is quite the interesting player this year for fantasy purposes. He has been written off by so many people as injury prone, a flash in the pan who will never quite live up to the lofty expectations he set for himself after the incredible 2011 season in which he came in second in the NL MVP voting after posting a .324 average and coming within one home run of a 40/40 season (39 HR, 40 SB) to go along with 126 RBI and 115 R. Will he ever make it back to those numbers? I want to say no, but if you dig deeper and take a look at his 2012 season, a case can be made that he just really has had one bad injury-plagued year, and that he still has a bright future ahead of him. In 2012, Kemp started to earn that "injury-prone" label, as he simply failed to repeat his 2011 season and had three stints on the disabled list. He still hit .303 and produced 69 RBI with 23 HR, so it was not as if he suddenly became Vernon Wells after signing a monster contract. The guy still hit, and was doing it at less than 100% because he knew how badly the team needed him at that point in time. Simply put, from a fantasy perspective, selecting Kemp comes with no risk when it comes to statistics; the only risk involved is whether or not he stays healthy. All reports out of Dodgers' camp this winter have been nothing but upbeat when it comes to Kemp’s health, so betting on him to get back to an All-Star level is not that far-fetched. I see his season going a little something like this: he starts the season pressing, trying to prove the doubters wrong, getting off to a slow start. He will put the weight of the world on his shoulders, and press. As the month of April moves along, he will discover that this team is winning even without his usual production, and it will make him relax, as this will be the first time he will be on a team that has such a talented lineup; he will realize that he does not need to drive in every run, hit a home run every at bat or score every run. Once he gets relaxed, watch out, as he may go on a “Puig-esque” run this summer and take back the throne as the king of this lineup. This is another player who is capable of carrying your team to the championship in 2014, and you may be able to get that production in Round 5 or 6! I am not saying to go draft Kemp in Round 3, but if he goes on a freefall, I would scoop him up in Round 5. Just be prepared to deal with some struggles early on. If he is taken very high in your draft, he is a prime candidate to try to acquire near the end of April, especially if he gets off to a rocky start, as whoever paid up for him in the draft may be looking to salvage his or her investment. I am bold on Kemp, and you should be too. Of all the outfielders in his draft range, I think he possesses the greatest upside outside of Carlos Gonzalez, who really is at the top of this range anyhow, so choosing between those two really would not come up. I have no problem letting Carlos Gomez and Adam Jones pass while I select a pitcher and hitter in Rounds 3 and 4; I'll happily take Kemp if he's available in Round 5.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .285 BA, 29 HR 110 RBI, 25 SB, 90 R
Adrian Gonzalez – 1B
2013 Stats: .293 BA, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 69 R, 1 SB
Current ADP: 5th / 6th
Adrian Gonzalez is as steady as they come in terms of fantasy production. He has really only gone through one real slump in his career, the majority of which has been spent on teams with bad lineups (Padres), or on dysfunctional teams (Red Sox), but since finding a home in L.A., Gonzalez has gotten back on track as a mainstay when it comes to putting together a good batting average and driving in runs. The one knock on Gonzalez at this point is his drop off in power over the last few years. First base is generally considered a power position, where fantasy owners pay for home runs and RBI, hoping they stumble upon a .300+ batting average. Players like that easily put you at the top of your league. Gonzalez is a fairly safe pick this year, but temper you expectations as the power seems to be gone, and expecting anything more than 25 dingers out of him is really reaching. The good news is that he is in a very talented and dynamic lineup that has plenty of players who can score from first on doubles and from second on base hits. Gonzalez's best asset for fantasy purposes this year should be RBI production, and he is a candidate to be among the league leaders this year in that department. If you got a power player at shortstop, second base or catcher early in your draft, Gonzalez is a great pick in Round 6. If you drafted for speed, or went heavy on pitching early on, someone like Edwin Encarnacion or Mark Trumbo might be a better pick at this point for your team. Gonzalez is more of a puzzle piece than a must-have at this point in his career, but he could be that big piece of the puzzle that completes your team.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .301 BA, 18 HR 115 RBI, 75 R, 0 SB
Carl Crawford – OF
2013 Stats: .283 BA, 6 HR, 30 2B, 62 R, 15 SB, .736 OPS, 31 RBI
Current ADP: 11th / 12th
Position Battle: All Dodgers outfielders have to be on notice, as they have four starting calibers players in the outfield. Crawford’s salary makes him almost untradeable, so him leaving really isn’t an option, but a prolonged slump could bring Andre Ethier into the starting left fielder’s job, just like a regression from Yasiel Puig could get him sent down to the minors. Make no mistake: Carl Crawford is the Dodgers left fielder, but Ethier's presence cannot be ignored.
2013 was Crawford’s return from Tommy John surgery in 2012. He did not get a full season in, but once he got into the lineup, he never came back out. A lack of top hand strength led to a power drop (position players do not rehab the Tommy John surgery as completely as pitchers do), but his doubles rate rose. His stolen bases were down, which has been a trend for Crawford since leaving Tampa where they deploy a much more aggressive baserunning scheme. The rise in doubles was probably due to some balls he hit out previously not clearing the fences because of the lack of strength, but it shows he can still drive the baseball. He maintained good numbers, but his steal rate drop is alarming, as that has always been his best fantasy asset. He stole only 18 bases his first year in Boston after stealing 47 his last year in Tampa, and then had two injury-plagued seasons, only to come back last year and really not run as much as he used to. Crawford hit better in the second half by almost 20 points, so perhaps he ended the year being back to his old self, and we could see a jump in average in 2014. Perhaps the pop is gone, but he is a cheap source of medium-level stolen base production. He will always have a decent enough average and is a plus player for runs scored, but lacks RBI and HR power, as he always has. Crawford is a good value later in the draft, but paying for speed on older players isn’t always the best strategy. He won't lose you your league, but he is not going to win it for you either. I would rather take Jayson Werth, another player now two years removed from a surgery that sapped him of his power, as I think Werth's upside is much greater, but I would take Crawford over the Dexter Fowlers, Wil Venables and Curtis Grandersons of the world, as he does not pose a huge risk when it comes to batting average and is in a lineup where he is going to score plenty of runs if he hits better than .240-- Crawford is a player who scores a lot of runs anyway. He’s a safe pick, but one who will not hurt you, as long as you are okay with him missing a few weeks for the inevitable hamstring pull at some point.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .290 BA, 15 HR, 90 R, 25 SB, 45 RBI
Yasiel Puig – OF
2013 Stats: 104 GP, .319 BA, .925 OPS, 66 R, 19 HR 42 RBI, 21 SB, 97 K 36 BB
Current ADP: 3rd-5th
Before looking ahead, I have to go back and pay respect to how much of an impact Yasiel Puig had on the Dodgers in 2013. The team went from a group of castoffs, past their prime, too injury-plagued to worry about, with a lame duck manager and sitting at the bottom of the standings, to a team that played one of the most epic stretches of baseball in MLB history. Puig stormed L.A. in much the same fashion that Manny Ramirez and Fernando Valenzuela before him did in their first seasons in Dodger blue. Puig basically had a four-month season, hit .284 after his first month with 12 HR, 46 R and 7 SB-- which over a full season equates to 25 HR, 97 R and 15 SB. So sure, it looks like he really regressed, but if you dig deeper into the numbers, you will see that this is not a case of pitchers figuring him out. I think he established early on that he is willing to hit any pitch, but Jeff Francoeur this guy is not. He still hit well after his “first trip around the big leagues,” as is often the barometer for how well a guy is going to fare over the remainder of his career. He just simply ran out of gas down the stretch, playing in the longest season of his career, and hit .215 in September, only one month after posting a .320 average in August. Sure, his .386 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was the second-highest in baseball, but someone with speed who swings so often and generates good contact is always going to have high numbers like that. I am not saying he is anything more than Vladamir Guererro, as I do not think we are looking at a perennial MVP winner, but we are surely looking at someone who is going to drive the ball, hit for solid power, steal his share of bases and score plenty of runs with an aggressive approach. Puig's willingness to drive the ball to right field means that he should always have good enough RBI totals, as that is generally what it takes when the money is on the line. Puig is going to go higher than he should in most drafts, but he has great upside in the runs and steals departments for someone you can count on for a solid average and good pop. That is a coveted combination in fantasy baseball, so you will have to overpay a bit to get him, with the belief that he can be among the top 15 hitters in baseball.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .303 BA, 27 HR, 85 RBI, 18 SB, 95 R
The Fantasy Unknowns
Alexander Guerrero – 2B
The Cuban defector that the Dodgers hope can have a Puig like effect on the Dodgers this summer is a shortstop by trade, but looks to be heavily in the mix for second base duties for the team in 2014. While still awaiting his work visa to come into the U.S., he has been training in the Dominican Republic, and even participated in a dozen Dominican Winter League games this season. I have a few teammates playing in the league, and from what I understand, my original scouting report on him seems to be spot on:
He hits his pitch, doesn’t look like he can drive the ball the other way, great extension, great coil, explodes on his pitch, short path to the ball. A little hitchy in his movements in the field, but plays as he if he is Omar Vizquel; if he gets a little bit more flexible and is willing to learn, the chances that he and Hanley make some SportsCenter double-play turns is great, but the probability of the pair leading the majors in throws in the dirt from a double play combo is also large. Looks like he has the pop and swing to be a compiler, which is great for fantasy purposes, but not so great in October, which is where the Dodgers plan on being for the next five years.
Players can improve if they are willing to be coached, but this kid comes off as very full of himself, and in my experience in playing baseball at a pretty high level, some/most of my most talented teammates were big-league players physically, but lacked the humility needed to allow the people around them to help enhance their game. I’m not saying this kid can’t be an everyday major leaguer, but his talent is immense and he should be more than that. It will be interesting to see how he develops, but he is worth the risk for the Dodgers if they feel like they can get through to him. Mattingly isn’t going to take any stuff from his players (remember the Puig benching?), but if the kid can play, Mattingly will use him. I personally am going to stay away from him on draft day, but I'll follow his progress and perhaps pick him up in April if he gets off to a decent start without incident. He is more on the radar for me for 2015 as far as fantasy drafts, but he could be worth an add this year if he goes undrafted in your league.
2014 Fantasy Projection: 115 GP, .255 BA, 16 HR, 42 RBI, 37 R, 2 SB
Update: Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said Guerrero is "leading the pack" if he had to choose a starting second baseman, even though the 27-year-old has barely played all winter.
The Fantasy Leftovers
A.J. Ellis - C
Ellis has hit at least .270 in three out of four years, and the year he didn't, he actually improved his strikeout-to-walk totals while maintaining all other stats besides average. The young catcher has hit double-digit home runs each of the last two years, and has driven in over 50 in both of those seasons.
Juan Uribe - 3B
After having three dreadful seasons, Uribe hit .278 in 2013, his first season above .250 since 2009. It looks like he cashed in on a exceptional season last year, and signed another contract, but counting on him to do much is wishful thinking. He will be available on your waiver wire most likely, so if he gets hot I suppose he could be worth an add, but I am not sold that he will be the Dodgers third baseman for all of 2014; that said, it looks like he will at least start the season there.
Andre Ethier – OF
Ethier is in a logjam in the outfield, and looks to be the odd man out again, but a trade could happen to clear the way to playing time. On the field, he is who he is, a solid baseball player with good hand-eye coordination, plate discipline and a sweet stroke that produces many line drives. He is capable of hitting 30 home runs, and is also capable of hitting just 15. He is going to be between .270 and .295, having only hit over .300 once in his career. He’s had one season above 100 RBi and has never stolen more than six bases. No one is doubting his talent, but his skill set just does not equate to fantasy dominance. He would be a solid fourth or fifth outfielder on your fantasy team if he ends up getting an everyday job somewhere, but for right now, he is off the radar due to playing time constraints.