In 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers put together another strong season, finishing with a record of 92-70. It was a relatively successful season for the boys in blue, despite dealing with a fair share of injuries. The sky is the limit for this organization in 2014, and do you know why?
Because they are better, that’s why.
How can we not start with the player that took the majors by storm? Yasiel Puig provided us all with just a taste of the massive potential he has in store, hitting 19 home runs, driving in 42 RBI and swiping 19 bags in just 382 plate appearances. But what about his first 26 games? During that span, Puig was unstoppable, posting a .436/.467/.713 slash line with six homers. He finished the season with an impressive .319 batting average, serving as just one of only two LA players to hit 19 home runs and bat at least .300. At 23-years old, Puig has plenty, plenty of room to grow, as he has some work to do. Puig swung and missed 16.9 percent of the time last season, which was among the highest in baseball. He also swung at 38.9 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone last year, which isn’t great. Still, the upside with this kid is tremendous, and with a terrific lineup behind him, runs and RBI should be present.
One of the biggest disappointments in fantasy land last year was that of Matt Kemp. A top tier talent in this league, Kemp played in just 73 games last year, as he dealt with an ankle and hamstring injury all season long. Because of the injuries, Kemp finished 2013 with the lowest home run total of his career at six, and until he can prove that he can consistently stay on the diamond, fantasy owners should not overpay for him.
Finally, there’s Hanley Ramirez, who could be in store for an absolute monster campaign. He, too, dealt with some injury last year, playing fewer than 100 games, but when he was on the field, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better shortstop. In 336 plate appearances, Hanley batted an incredible .345 with 20 home runs. I wouldn’t expect that high of an average again, as his BABIP jumped from .290 to a career-high .363, so there was likely some good luck involved here. And according to Scott White of CBS Sports, only Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout were ahead of Ramirez in head-to-head points per game last season, so you can just see the amount of upside he has, even at 30-years old. You could make the argument that Hanley deserves to be the top shortstop drafted in fantasy this year, ahead of Troy Tulowitzki. Potentially batting third in a very strong lineup, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he finished among the league leaders in RBI, assuming he can stay healthy.
It’s Clayton Kershaw, and then everyone else.
That’s what the pitching landscape looks like for fantasy purposes in 2014. Coming off another stellar campaign where he won 16 games (3rd-most in NL), struck out 232 batters (1st) and posted an ERA of 1.83 (1st), Kershaw continued to make the case that he is the best pitcher in the game. If you are going to use a first round pick on an arm, it has to be Kershaw. Meanwhile, Dodger Stadium has been friendly for pitchers, sporting the 28th-fewest runs (0.868), 25th-fewest (0.867) and 22nd-fewest (0.936) over the last three seasons. He was rated as the number one pitcher on FanGraphs last year, sporting the league’s second-fewest HR/9 of 0.42. Draft Kershaw and expect another dominant performance this season.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.