Monday, January 10, 2011

Finding Keepers: Los Angeles Dodgers

Going into the 2011 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have some very nice fantasy players but how many of them deserve to be keepers heading into draft day?

If you put together your "All Disappointment" Team of 2010, most would have OF Matt Kemp earning a spot in the starting lineup. Google searching seems to prove he earned it. But is it deservingly so? Kemp, a full-time player since 2008, did reach career highs in extra-base hits (59), home runs (28) and walks (53) but also in strikeouts (170) and caught stealings (15). His slash line of .249/.310/.450 was below his career slash line of .285/.336/.472 but not significantly other than in batting average. In my opinion, the perception of his season as being "down" comes from Kemp being drafted as a first-rounder (8.8 ADP) but only providing owners with an 83rd-ranked performance. With Joe Torre and Rihanna out of the way, Kemp's focus should be on returning to an elite fantasy baseball outfielder and definitely worthy of a keeper selection in all formats.

OF Andre Ethier was hitting .392 with 11 HR and 38 RBI before fracturing his pinkie in batting practice on May 15th. His season never felt the same after that. Ethier still managed to finish 2010 hitting .292 with 23 HR and 82 RBI and deserves to to be keeper.

We all learned from watching Felix Hernandez earn a Cy Young award this season that wins aren't the truest measure of a pitcher's value. SP Clayton Kershaw finished the season 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 212 strikeouts (9.3 K/9). Those are fantasy ace numbers. Oh, by the way, he's just 22 years old. 22! With so much still to learn about pitching at the major league level, Kershaw deserves to be a keeper now and for many years to come.

I often talk about factors that should be considered when evaluating a player's status as a keeper and one of this is positional scarcity or positional ranking. SS Rafael Furcal finished the season as the 6th-ranked shortstop on ESPN's Player Rater with a .300/66/8/43/22 but only managed to play in 97 games. Is he an injury risk or an upper-tier shortstop? I choose the latter. What about you?

Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • 1B James Loney hit a career-worst .267 but still managed to come close to his career averages in runs, hits and RBI while stealing a career-best 10 bases. He finished the season as the 23rd-ranked first baseman.
  • SP Hiroki Kuroda only finished the season 11-13 but posted a 3.39 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP. A very nice pitching option but not a keeper.
  • SP Chad Billingsley was supposed to be this team's ace but struggled at times and finished the season 12-11 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.
  • RP Jonathan Broxton came into the season as a dominant closer but struggled (misuse?) and replaced by RP Hong-Chih Kuo who was very effective in that role. It will be interesting to see how Mattingly aligns his bullpen for 2011.
That's all I got off the Dodgers roster heading into keeper season. Are their others you're more optimistic about than I am? I'd love to hear from the die-hard Dodgers fans regarding the overall outlook for the 2011 season (I'm talking to you @Alyssa_Milano).

Check out the rest of the teams I've covered so far in my "Finders Keepers" series by clicking here.

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