Dodgers Team Preview: New Sheriff In Town

Dodgers Team Preview: New Sheriff In Town

This article is part of our MLB Team Previews series.

2015 Dodgers Team Preview: There's a New Sheriff in Town

Winning 94 games and making the playoffs would be a successful season for most franchises, but these are the Dodgers. Along with the league's highest payroll comes massive expectations, and losing in the Divisional Series to the Cardinals (once again) cost Ned Colletti his GM title this winter, though he did stay in the organization in another role. Enter Andrew Friedman and about 20 other highly-paid executives. Friedman inked a five-year $35 million deal to become the team's President of Baseball Operations. Farhan Zaidi was brought over from the A's to become GM, with Josh Byrnes, Gabe Kaplar, and others in supporting roles. With new management comes inevitable changes, and boy were there changes, some of which didn't go over well with the fans, but were designed to improve the club both defensively and in the clubhouse.

Somewhat surprisingly, Don Mattingly retained his job, but he'll be on the hot seat from day one. Mattingly has received his share of criticism for how he handled the bullpen and the mercurial personalities in the clubhouse, but moving on from strong personalities such has Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp should help the latter, while the former see addition by subtraction with the departures of Brian Wilson and Chris Perez. As a whole, it appears that the team has lost both power (Kemp, Ramirez) and speed (Dee Gordon), but the improvement up the middle defensively will be massive with the additions of Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins at the keystone combination. Joc Pederson should win the center field job and provide well above average defense as well.

Offensively, the Dodgers will miss a healthy Hanley Ramirez and the 2014 second half Matt Kemp, but there will be sneaky gains at other positions. At catcher, Yasmani Grandal will bring his now-healthy knees and provide power to a position that netted just seven home runs for the Dodgers last year. Kendrick should be good for double-digit homers at second, while a resurgent Rollins slugged 17 last year, four more than Ramirez himself managed in just 10 more games played. It's a more balanced offense to be sure, but the club is going to need Adrian Gonzalez to continue his consistent play and for Yasiel Puig to show a bit more power. All in all, there's enough here for another NL West title assuming the starting rotation, namely Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, remain healthy.

Offseason Moves

Where to start ...?

Traded OF Matt Kemp and C Tim Federowicz to the Padres for C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Joe Wieland, and minor league pitcher Zach Eflin.

We knew that at least one outfielder had to go this winter, but most figured it would be Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford. However, given the lack of production relative to the money owed each of those guys, it was fan favorite and former near-MVP Kemp that was shipped out. It was a deal that was probably about as popular as the Mike Piazza deal among Dodgers fans, but what's done is done. Grandal is expected to be the team's regular catcher with A.J. Ellis functioning as the backup and likely starter when Kershaw toes the rubber. Center field will be decided in March, with prospect Joc Pederson, fresh off a 30/30 season in Triple-A, expected to open camp as the favorite. Pederson offers excellent defense and promise at the plate, even if he did struggle a bit in his 2014 cup of coffee. If he's not ready, look for Yasiel Puig in center flanked by Crawford in left and Ethier in right, and Scott Van Slyke getting plenty of looks versus LHP. Wieland will compete to be the first Triple-A callup when injuries strike, and Eflin ended up being flipped to Philadelphia in the Jimmy Rollins deal.

Trade minor league pitchers Tom Windle and Zach Eflin to Philadelphia for SS Jimmy Rollins.

The Phillies did well here in getting two promising young arms for one year of Rollins, but the Dodgers also did well in solidifying the shortstop position with the departure of Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox. Rollins hit just .243 last year, but his 10.5% BB% was the best mark of his career and the 17 home runs were his second-highest mark there since 2009. He may be 36, but his legs still work, as evidenced by 28 stolen bases and well above-average defensive metrics. He seems likely to be the #2 hitter between Crawford and probably Puig.

Traded 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Dan Haren, SS Miguel Rojas and cash to Miami Marlins, for LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Chris Hatcher, 2B Enrique Hernandez and C Austin Barnes.

Trading a young All-Star cost-controlled second baseman isn't something you see every day, but the Dodgers ended up essentially getting Gordon's replacement, a bullpen piece in Hatcher, a solid utility guy, and a potential catcher of the future. The new regime clearly places less emphasis on stolen bases and more on OBP, power, and defense. Thus the selling high of Gordon. Hatcher should become a valuable bullpen piece after a below-the-radar 2014 (60:12 K:BB in 56 innings). Hernandez will compete for a utility role this spring, while the 25 year-old Barnes just hit .304/.406/.507 in the minors last year. He should see major league time in 2015.

Traded LHP Andrew Heaney to the Angels for 2B Howie Kendrick.

Most expected Alex Guerrero to slot in as the second baseman after the Dodgers made the deal for Heaney, but Heaney wasn't a Dodgers for even a full day before this deal was pulled off. Kendrick tied his career-best with a .347 OBP last year, though his seven home runs were a disappointment given his career-high of 18. He could hit anywhere between second and sixth.

Signed RHP Brandon McCarthy to a four-year $48 million deal.

McCarthy replaces Dan Haren in the #4 spot, and if he can pitch like he did after the trade to the Yankees last year, the Dodgers will have one of the league's top fourth starters. After the deal last July, McCarthy posted 90 innings of 2.89 ERA ball pitching in the AL East. His peripherals were excellent last year - 7.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, but the long ball continued to give him issues with a 1.1 HR/9 being comparable to his 1.0 career mark. Last year's 32 starts were easily a career high (previous: 25), and the Dodgers are clearly banking on his injuries being behind him.

Signed LHP Brett Anderson to a one-year $10 million deal.

When healthy, Anderson has showed #2 starter stuff over the years, but given he's made just 19 big league starts in three years, the Dodgers are taking a flier here. Anderson had a 2.84 ERA in four July starts for Colorado last year before getting hurt yet again. He has reported feeling good this winter, but even the Dodgers probably don't know what they just bought. He's still just 27 however, so there's plenty to like here if he can remain in the rotation.

Traded RHP Greg Harris and RHP Jose Dominguez to Tampa Bay Rays for LHP Adam Liberatore and RHP Joel Peralta.

Peralta turns 39 in March and is coming off a 4.41 ERA in 2014, but underlying metrics suggests the ERA was a bit of a fluke. Peralta posted a 74:15 K:BB in 63.1 innings while a .328 BABIP clocked in at 50 points over his career mark. Given he's appeared in 69 or more games for four consecutive seasons, we have to think Peralta sees his ERA return to a sub-4.00 mark. He's a bit of a flyball pitcher, so he'll clearly be rooting for Joc Pederson to win the CF job this spring. Peralta should slot in as closer Kenley Jansen's top setup man, making him a guy to look at in deeper leagues.

Traded RHP Matt Magill to the Cincinnati Reds for LF Chris Heisey.

Heisey's ability to play center field could win him a job out of camp, but at-bats are still going to be hard to come by even after the Matt Kemp trade.

Projected Lineup (vs. RHP/LHP)

1. Carl Crawford, LF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Yasiel Puig, RF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Yasmani Grandal, C
6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
7. Juan Uribe, 3B
8. Joc Pederson, CF

Given all the changes, this is a best-guess scenario. Kendrick could move up as far as #2, but this represents a good L/R balance, something we presume Don Mattingly would prefer. Scott Van Slyke will spell either Crawford or Ethier against lefties while A.J. Ellis will see a start or two each week as well. Justin Turner had a fantastic 2014 (.340/.404/.493) as the team's primary utility man and spot starter, but he has no path to a starting job unless he can perhaps outhit Uribe this spring. Uribe though is excellent defensively and the Dodgers may prefer the flexibility Turner offers off the bench.

Projected Rotation

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
4. Brandon McCarthy
5. Brett Anderson

There are no job battles here, but given the fragile health of guys like McCarthy and Anderson, it's wise to think about who is on deck. Top prospect Julio Urias isn't expected to be a factor until 2016, so it would probably come down to Joe Wieland and prospect Zach Lee should the injury bug bite.

Closer:Kenley Jansen returns as closer after last year's 44 saves and 2.76 ERA. The ERA took a jump from 2013's 1.88 mark, due in large part to a BABIP that spiked 90 points year-over-year to 2014's .375. His K/9 rate was its stellar self at 13.9 while his walk rate trended up from 2.1 BB/9 to 2.6 year-over-year. Jansen also generated more swing and miss scenarios last year than in any other year, so it's a safe bet that his ERA will come down and settle more in the low 2's in 2015. He's a top-five fantasy closer given his job security and strikeout rate.

Key Bullpen Members: The 2014 Dodgers bullpen ranked just 22nd in baseball in bullpen ERA with a 2014 mark of 3.80. Subbing Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta for Brian Wilson and Chris Perez will help, but this is still an unsettled group behind Kenly Jansen here in February.

A converted catcher a la Jansen, Hatcher could be the key here given his impressive 2014 (60:12 K:BB in 56 IP) and the fact that he's really still learning to pitch after converting in 2011 while with the Marlins. He averaged 95.1 mph with his fastball last year and could find himself settling in as Jansen's top setup man in short order.

Joel Peralta's 10.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 last year point towards plenty of life left in his 38 year-old arm. For more on Peralta, see above, but he's likely going to pitch plenty of high-leverage situations and could be tabbed for the occasional save opportunity should Jansen need a night off.

If you want a (very) deep closer sleeper, Pedro Baez could be your guy. In what seems to be a trend in the Dodgers bullpen, Baez is a converted position player (third base) who has had some early success on the hill. In his big league debut last year, Baez tossed 24 innings of 2.63 ERA ball, averaging 95.3 mph with his fastball. He showed surprising control with a 1.8 BB/9, and with more experience, his 6.8 K/9 should only trend up. Given he's only pitch professionally for two years, Baez is difficult to project, but the early returns are intriguing.

Brandon League and J.P. Howell will fill two slots. As the only lefty guaranteed an Opening Day bullpen slot, Howell will look to try and forget the seven runs he surrendered in his last three innings of 2014, a run that took his ERA from 1.17 to 2.39. Howell hasn't notched a save since 2011 and isn't projected to do so this year. League meanwhile posted a 2.57 ERA, but that came with a 5.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. League was somewhat lucky in that in his 63 innings, he did not allow a home run. Admittedly, his G/F ratio is elite at 4.6, but his underlying metrics suggest an ERA more in the 3.50-4.00 range at best this year.

Should the Dodgers elect to carry 12 pitchers, that leaves one bullpen slot up for grabs. Expected to be in the mix are Paco Rodriguez, Sergio Santos, Yimi Garcia, David Huff, and Carlos Frias. Rodriguez probably has the advantage given he's a lefty.

Notes of Import, Fantasy or Otherwise:

Does Alex Guerrero have a role on this team?

Signed to a four-year $28 million contract prior to the 2014 season, Guerrero enters this season with his status firmly up in the air. He's already lost the second job twice, once to Dee Gordon last year, and now to Howie Kendrick. Guerrero showed great promise with the bat last year, batting a combined .333/.373/.621 between three levels, but questions about his long-term defensive position remain. He's played mostly second base as a professional after playing shortstop in Cuba, but he also played some third and outfield last year and seems likely to function as a utility player this year barring injuries. A clause in Guerrero's contract prevents him from being sent to the minors without his consent, further complicating his potential role with the team. Perhaps the club will use him (and Scott Van Slyke) in the outfield versus lefties while also giving him time all around the infield. That said, Justin Turner hit .340 and will need at-bats as well, so Guerrero remains a huge wild card.

Is Joc Pederson ready for the big leagues and where should he be drafted?

After batting .303/.435/.582 with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases for Triple-A Albuquerque, Pederson has nothing left to prove in the minors. He was just 4-for-28 in a cup of coffee last year, but nine walks pushed his batting line to an interesting .143/.351/.143. He's the team's top defensive CF already, so that should give him a big leg up in camp, but Pederson will still need to show offensive potential in March to be with the big club come April. Pederson has top-75 fantasy potential in 2015 given the power/speed combination, but a 26.9% minor league strikeout rate could limit his BA upside to .250 or less assuming that rate continues at the big league level. He's probably going to go in the 8-9 round range in 12-team mixed leagues.

Can we really expect another 200 innings out of Brandon McCarthy?

We typically don't see starting pitchers turn 30 and add two mph to their fastball, but that's exactly what happened with McCarthy last year. Perhaps he was just healthier (particularly in New York), but the Dodgers bet $48 million that he can at least throw 170+ innings in 2015. McCarthy has shown elite control the past four years, posting a 1.5 BB/9 in 2014, and combined with a stellar GB% that reached a career-high 52.6%, there are plenty of indicators that the Dodgers could have gotten plenty of value here. The increased velocity in particular is a good indicator that McCarthy is stronger than he's ever been and that his shoulder troubles could be a thing of the past. If you believe, you may be able to get him at a discount as well.


The main strength here is that there really are no weaknesses. The back end of the rotation has some medical question marks, but any rotation with Kershaw and Greinke is by definition one of the best. The lineup is solid from top to bottom, and Kenley Jansen is one of the league's better closers.


In Kemp and Ramirez, two imposing bats are gone, but power gains at second base and catcher should help offset those losses. Regardless, the Dodgers' 134 home runs ranked 16th in baseball last year, so they can succeed without a bunch of thumpers. The real weakness could be the bullpen around Kenley Jansen, as while Brian Wilson and Chris Perez are additions by subtraction, Brandon League isn't posting a 2.57 ERA again (FIP was 3.47). J.P. Howell remains the lone lefty, which would be fine if he can post a 2.39 ERA again, but over his last 10 games in 2014, Howell allowed an 8.59 ERA and 1.91 WHIP. Perhaps Paco Rodriguez can be a factor again. Regardless, this group will be in trouble should Jansen get hurt.

Rising:Yasiel Puig - By all accounts (and my personal observation in Arizona last March), Puig came to camp out of shape last year and still managed to hit .296/.382/.480 with 16 homers and 11 stolen bases. Take these "best shape of his life stories" with the appropriate grain of salt, but Puig is reportedly focusing on improving his speed this winter with the intention of stealing more bases in 2015. With further strength and now one full year under his belt, he would seem to be a good bet for a 20/20 season, numbers that may just be scratching the surface of his immense talent.

Declining:Juan Uribe - Fantasy owners won't complain about Uribe batting .311 last year, but part of that is a result of an unsustainable .370 BABIP. Given that he's turned 35 and managed just nine home runs last year, it's wise to not expect much in 2015. Uribe has averaged just 95 games in his four-year tenure with the Dodgers, missing significant time last year due to hamstring troubles. Those don't magically go away at his age, so look for plenty of Justin Turner at 3B for the Dodgers this year.

Sleeper:Justin Turner - We talked about Turner a bit above. He's a favorite of manager Don Mattingly, and deservedly so after Turner batted .340 last year. It's tough to see where another 300+ PA's will come from this year, but odds are that someone will get hurt and help Turner reach that plateau. He's probably not going to have a .408 BABIP again this year, but there's enough skills here to think he can be a .300 hitter in part-time duty.

Supersleeper:Scott Van Slyke - Van Slyke's exploits against LHP (.315/.415/.630 in 2014) are fairly well-known, but he was no slouch against righties either - .279/.354/.413. With all the outfielders ahead of him and Adrian Gonzalez entrenched at first, Van Slyke's playing time looks to be spotty at best again in 2015. Still, the Dodgers could trade another outfielder to further ease the logjam, perhaps allowing Van Slyke to top last year's 212 at-bats.

Top Prospects:

Corey Seager, SS/3B - Universally considered one of the game's top prospects, Seager is still a shortstop despite his 6'4" frame. He may very well slide over to third in the next couple of years, but his bat will play anywhere. Seager obliterated pitchers at both stops in 2014, posting a .352/.411/.633 slash line at High-A Rancho Cucamonga and a .345/.381/.534 line at Double-A Chattanooga. He combined for 20 home runs and six steals in 118 total games at both stops, and doesn't turn 21 until after the start of the 2015 season. The younger brother of Kyle Seager (who has 20-plus home runs in three straight seasons in Seattle), Corey is actually more highly regarded as a prospect than his older brother ever was. In addition to staggering numbers, strong bloodlines and the potential to stick at shortstop, Seager should debut late this year with an eye towards opening 2016 replacing either Jimmy Rollins or Juan Uribe, both free agents after this season.

Joc Pederson, OF - The Dodgers' outfield depth kept Pederson at Triple-A for the bulk of 2014, even though he seemed ready to contribute at the big league level. Of some concern is that he struck out 26.9% of the time at Albuquerque, but Pederson has a good eye at the plate (100 walks, 18.1% BB%) and the combination of power and speed necessary to become a five-category star. He also showed significant improvement against lefties with the move from Double-A to Triple-A, striking out less against lefties than righties last season and posting a very similar batted ball profile in each split. Reaching the 30-30 plateau for the first time in his professional career at Triple-A, Pederson has nothing left to prove in the minors and should be on track to start in center field for the Dodgers on Opening Day. He's essentially competing with Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford for the two spots alongside Yasiel Puig.

Julio Urias, LHP - Evoking memories of fellow Mexican lefty Fernando Valenzuela, all Urias did was dominate High-A hitters as a 17 year-old last year. Still under a strict innings limit, Urias pitched just 87.1 frames last year, posting a 2.36 ERA and 109:37 K:BB. He got better as the season progressed, putting up a 1.20 ERA in his final 45 innings with (crazy) talk that he could even see time with the Dodgers in September. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, the curve is plus-plus, and his change continues to get better. Urias will open in Double-A this year and seems likely to make his big league debut before his 20th birthday, perhaps as early as this season.

Zach Lee, RHP - The former LSU QB recruit had a rocky 2014 to say the least, posting a 5.38 ERA and 1.53 WHIP for Triple-A Albuquerque. His K% plummeted from 22.5% to just 14.5% last year, leaving his long-term future very much up in the air. He'll look to make some adjustments this year and put himself in a position to be one of the team's first promotions in 2015, but he's got a lot of work to do to regain our trust in dynasty leagues.

Chris Reed, LHP - Even when Reed was initially drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 draft, the industry consensus pitted him as a future reliever given his lack of command/control. Despite putting up a 3.22 ERA in 137 innings at Double-A Chattanooga, and sporting three average-or-better pitches, the smart money is still on Reed ending up in a big league bullpen. His 9.5% walk rate at Double-A and 9.7% walk rate in 22.1 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City were comfortably the best rates of his career, but without overpowering stuff, the bullpen could be a better fit. As a lefty who can induce weak contact, Reed will be an asset at some point for the Dodgers. However, his fantasy value hinges on him remaining a starter, an outcome that is yet to be determined. He could get a spot start or two at the big league level at some point, but unless he's super-impressive, expect more relief outings than starting opportunities going forward.

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David Regan
David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year and the 2010 Baseball Writer of the Year.
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