Los Angeles Dodgers 2019 Fantasy Projections – LA Changes a few Pieces Looking for a 7th NL West Crown
The LA Dodgers have held the NL West Division hostage for six consecutive years. Their playoff victory over Colorado in a one-game playoff made them the third most dominant team in any division in Major League Baseball. The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves are the only teams to top this string of success. Here's a quick recap of the Dodgers sixth straight NL West title, plus a look at how they stack up for fantasy players heading into 2019.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2018 Recap
The 2018 season started out a bit inauspiciously. One of the Dodgers leading players in their run to the 2017 NL Championship was hit on the left wrist by an errant spring training fastball. Justin Turner landed on the DL, so the Dodgers were immediately playing shorthanded, minus one of their better players.
By late May, LA was a full 10-games under .500, and another playoff appearance seemed like a long shot at best. When the trade deadline hit on July 31, the Dodgers had reversed course and were a half-game back of Arizona, tied for second place with Colorado. It would be a back and forth battle the last two months of the season.
Arizona would fade, and Colorado would match LA win for win. At the end of 162 games, they were tied with 91 wins apiece. The Dodgers then won an all-important tie-breaker game to avoid a wildcard battle with the Cubs in Chicago. With their sixth straight division title, came an NLDS series against the upstart Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers would eliminate the Braves in four games, then battle the Milwaukee Brewers to a seventh game. Los Angeles won game seven 5-1, earning their second consecutive trip to the World Series. However, after losing to Houston in 2017, they ran into a powerhouse Boston Red Sox team in 2018 that disposed of LA in five quick games.
2019 Fantasy Pitchers Projections – The Best Pitchers in Dodger Blue
Clayton Kershaw is no longer one of the most highly-coveted players out of all players on a fantasy draft board. However, in spite of sporadic health issues, Kershaw is still almost as dominating as he has always been.
While he no longer surpasses the 200-inning mark, Kershaw finished 161 full innings in 2018. Although his strikeout percentage was slightly lower than one per inning for the first time in six seasons, his WHIP was actually at a low point in the last five.
It's hard to appreciate how good he has really been until you consider that a stellar 2018 ERA of 2.73 is the highest he has posted in nine seasons. With that kind of track record and but only the slightest drop in productivity, Kershaw is still a top-tier fantasy staff ace.
The second best pitcher on LA in 2018 was Alex Wood, but he's been traded away to Cincinnati along with Yasiel Puig. The new number two is a talented young pitcher in the same mold as Kershaw. Walker Buehler started 23 games last season, totaling 137 full innings.
His strikeout per nine innings rating was like Kershaw of old, and his WHIP was under 1.00. The most dominant statistic Buehler posted, however, was the .193 batting average opponents had against him. On a good defensive team, some feel 20-wins is a realistic prediction for Buehler.
Rich Hill occupies the third spot in the Dodger's rotation, and is a middle-tier fantasy pitcher. Part of the reason behind Hill being fantasy viable is Chavez Ravine, the home park of the Dodgers, and the other is that he is a good pitcher.
Since rekindling his career as a starting pitcher after five years as a reliever, Hill has averaged more than a strikeout per inning to go with an ERA under 4.00. He's not been a big innings-eater the last two seasons, but he has double-digit wins in both.
Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda are slotted to bring up the rear in the LA rotation. Both earn the same type of ranking for fantasy pitching staffs. Ryu has a special appeal, after posting a 1.97 ERA over 15 starts in 2018. If he can manage more innings in 2019, his fantasy value could actually surpass Hill's.
2019 Fantasy Hitter Projections – The Best LA Bats
Part of the reason the home run metric for Chavez Ravine was up slightly in 2018 is because the Dodgers hit a lot of those additional long balls. However, heading into 2019 three of the seven players who hit over 20 homers are gone from the roster.
Back is team leader Max Muncy. Muncy's bat is so good he forced the Dodgers to shift one of the better defensive first basemen in baseball somewhere else. Muncy actually earned a 2-percent share of the NL MVP voting, tied with teammate Justin Turner for that distinction.
With 35 home runs, Muncy is still a top-flight fantasy addition, in spite of crowded list of first basemen. The player who Muncy forced off first base for the Dodgers is Cody Bellinger. Many feel Bellinger is the Dodger's best pure power hitter. However, his numbers dropped in 2018.
After smacking 39 home runs to go with 97 RBIs in 2017, Bellinger fell back to only 25 long balls and less than 80 RBIs. A few of his peripheral statistics came back down to earth, but he is still a strong fantasy addition as an outfielder. One nice perk is his ability to swipe a base now and again.
The Dodgers will welcome back star shortstop Corey Seager. Seager is returning from not one injury, but two. He required Tommy John surgery, plus had a hip issue that cost him all but 26 games in 2018.
Seager is simply too talented to avoid for fantasy purposes, but there is still some skepticism if he'll be able to return to his all star/rookie-of-the-year form. Keep in mind, he is 24-years-old, so in dynasty formats he is just too good to pass over.
The final fantasy option in the Dodger's batting order is probably their best. Justin Turner managed to play only 103 games after his wrist injury. Some felt he came back a little too early, and it resulted in a loss of power productivity. Turner still hit over .300 and topped 30 doubles for the third consecutive season.
He is historically a .300 hitter with 20 home run potential. He'll be slotted at third in the Dodger order, one behind Seager and in front of Muncy and Bellinger. Turner could be in line for a career best in runs scored, especially if continues to land on second base three or four dozen at bats.
Fantasy Rank for the Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers parted company with over 60 of their home runs, but they still have the core of their power in the lineup. Turner will certainly regain some of his pop, and Corey Seager's progress will be watched closely. The Dodger's have an offense that will feed off each other, and there is too much talent to ignore their best bats for fantasy lineups.
The pitching staff is still led by Clayton Kershaw, and Kershaw is still a dominating presence. He may soon be the second best pitcher on the Dodger team if Walker Buehler realizes his immense potential. The final three starters on LA are also fantasy viable, partly because of Chavez Ravine, and partly because they pitch for a very good Dodger team.
The Bottom Line for the Dodgers
The Dodger's may find the Rockies have their eye on the NL West. Colorado has young and talented pitching staff, built to compete with the Dodgers. LA still has as strong pitching staff as well, so don't be surprised if this is one of the last division races to be decided.
It won't be surprising either, if the second place team is also part of the NL playoffs. But, if the Dodgers play up to their potential and Corey Seager regains his form, don't be surprised if LA grabs their seventh consecutive NL West crown.