We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2011 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2011 Dodgers Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
1. I’ve put Matt Kemp about as high as any reasonable person can in my top 20 for 2011 fantasy baseball.Â I can’t help it, but I see a guy in the prime of his career who is going to be more successful in his rebound from Rihanna than Chris Brown.Â Am I being crazy here?
Kemp had an OPS over .900 in April of last year, and ended the season by homering in each of the last five games of the season. If you ignore the middle 5 months or so, he was the best player in baseball history.
Seriously, though, 2010 was a mess on all fronts. The GM called him out at the end of April for his poor fielding, despite the fact that there were about 40 bigger reasons the team was sucking. Then he got into it with old crusty coaches like Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa.. and got benched by Joe Torre.. and got accused of slacking because he had a celebrity girlfriend.
Whether or not you buy into the Rhianna distraction bit – I don’t – she’s gone, as are Torre, Schaefer, and Bowa. Kemp apparently has a very good relationship with Don Mattingly, and new coach Davey Lopes – who’s not only revered for his baserunning coaching, but is good friends with Kemp’s agent Dave Stewart – should be a huge positive influence on him. Kemp did a poor job of handling the criticism last year, so it’s not all on other people, but publicly accepted the blame late in the season, which is another good sign – as is the season-ending homer streak.
The funny thing is that expectations were so high that people were killing him for a year in which he had a 107 OPS+; it’s not like he went all “Andruw Jones in 2008” on us here. Call me biased – and I probably am – but I think he’s going to destroy the world this year.
2. Last year, I picked Clayton Kershaw in the preseason to win the Cy Young. He finished with a 2.91 ERA and 212 Ks so it wasn’t like I was playing back up for Daniel Johnston and eating cereal out of my Nikes. This year, I might pick him again. What kind of year do you expect from Kershaw?
I’ve been calling Kershaw an “ace” for about 2.5 years now, and he’s barely old enough to drink. If you look at the stats, he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and he was almost certainly the hardest to hit. He even made progress in reining in his wildness, allowing him to work deeper into games. And he’s not even 23 for another few weeks!
To be honest, the only reason that he doesn’t get more credit is that his W/L record is mediocre, as though we don’t know how useless that is. He could have easily been 18-6 or something similar last year with just a little help from the offense, and I think that’d have really changed the viewpoint on him.
It’s hard to say he’s “going” to win the Cy in a league with guys like Lee, Halladay, Lincecum, Wainwright, etc., but choose against him at your own peril. Half of those guys hadn’t even been in the bigs at this age, and he’s already dominating.
3. Rafael Furcal can’t stay healthy, Juan Uribe, well, he’s kinda terrible. Any chance we see Dee Gordon this year? If so, when? (For Razzball readers, Gordon is a Dodgers infield prospect who can steal 50 bases.)
I don’t think there’s any chance you see Gordon this year. Put another way, if you do, the Dodger season has gone completely sideways. Just about all the scouts agree that he’s a fantastic athlete, but despite his famous dad he didn’t take baseball seriously until late in his teens, making him exceedingly raw. He had a good – but not great – year at AA last year, and it’s likely he starts there before moving up to AAA. The absolute best case scenario is a September call-up, and even then I think he’s more of a 2013 target date to be the full-time starter rather than 2012.
That doesn’t mean he’s not an exciting prospect; he surely is, if he can put it together. He’s just not going to shoot through the system at a Heyward-esque pace.
4. I kinda love relief pitchers who can K a shizzload. Jonathan Broxton fits that bill and he’s only going to be 26 years old to start the season. Last year’s problems will be behind him or the Dodgers will experiment with other closers in 2011?
The holy war over Jonathan Broxton is one of the least fun parts about being a Dodger fan right now. I honestly have written about his troubles so many times that I can’t bring myself to go through it all again, so I’ll sum up his 2010 like this:
April 8 – June 26: 0.83 ERA, 48/5 K/BB, awesomesauce
June 27: Torre leaves him out for 48 pitches, capping a stretch of 99 pitches in 5 days, which is more than a lot of starters throw.
June 28 – Oct 3: 6.59 ERA, 24/21 K/BB, craptactular
I don’t think that’s exactly a coincidence, no? Mattingly says that Broxton gets the first crack to retain the job, which makes sense; no one wants a $7m setup man. I think that a winter of rest and a season away from Torre can really do wonders. If not him, Hong-Chih Kuo filled in capably last year and may do so again, though his fragile arm makes him an iffy proposition since he can’t really pitch on back-to-back nights.
If you love relievers who whiff people, don’t sleep on Kenley Jansen. He only switched from catching to pitching at the tail end of 2009, yet struck out 13.7/9 in 25 MLB games last year. He barely knows how to pitch yet, but he was blowing people away.
5. What on earth is going on in this picture of Andre Ethier?
I’m pretty sure that picture is at least 5 years old; it’s probably from when he was a rookie in 2006 and was forced to participate in rookie hazing. I like to think that instead he’d just robbed the 7-11 in the background and that was his costume.