Team preview: Los Angeles Dodgers
1. SS: Rafael Furcal
2. 3B: Casey Blake
3. RF: Andre Ethier
4. CF: Matt Kemp
5. 1B: James Loney
6. 2B: Juan Uribe
7. LF: Jay Gibbons/Marcus Thames
8. C: Rod Barajas
1. SP:; Clayton Kershaw
2. SP:; Chad Billingsley
3. SP: Ted Lilly
4. SP: Hiroki Kuroda
5. SP: Jon Garland
CL: Jonathan Broxton
• You didn’t fall into that "Kemp is an underachiever" trap last season, did you? He wasn’t as good as expected, but some bad BABIP luck (His .295 BABIP was well below his career mark of .344) didn’t help matters. Kemp is fifth on my fantasy outfielder list and 14th overall. Believe.
• Anyone still waiting for Loney to break out? He’ll be age 27 in May, so 15 homers might be all we get. That’s not bad if he bats .300 and has 100 RBI. But the former doesn’t always happen, and the latter is dependent on his teammates’ ability to get on base. Loney is ranked 20th among first basemen; he could get better and be helpful in standard leagues. But let’s see it happen before counting on him for anything.
• It’s tempting to look at Barajas’ power and think he’ll be a good standard-league backup. Just remember that his career batting average is .239, and Dodger Stadium isn’t exactly hitter-friendly.
• Kershaw’s 2010 numbers suggest that he’s just about at ace-level status already. But he’s a candidate to explode into America’s consciousness in 2011. He's No. 10 among the starters, and there's really not mich reason to worry about him. He has the total package.
• Billingsley has long been one of my favorites despite some inconsistent ERAs (with 3.14, 4.03, 3.57 since 2008). His strikeout rate is still above eight per nine innings; his control improved last season; and his ground-ball rate did the same. At age 26, Billingsley is primed for a breakout. As a result, he's a bargain as a low-end SP2.
• Odd man out: Jamey Carroll is looking at a utility role after getting 351 at-bats last season. But he doesn’t have much fantasy value, anyways. Also, there’s no room for Vicente Padilla in the rotation after his 16 solid starts in 2010. He’ll pitch out of the bullpen, and wait for a rotation injury.
• Top prospects: Speedy outfielder Trayvon Robinson could get some playing time in Chavez Ravine this season if the team gets tired of its mediocre left-field platoon (Thames is awful in the field). Fellow speed demon Dee Gordon may start at shortstop if perennial DL-threat Rafael Furcal becomes hurt for any length of time.
• Backup closer: Hong-Chih Kuo replaced Broxton last season, and will probably do so again if the big man struggles. Kuo is the rare reliever with standard-league value even if he doesn’t close.