Ali-Frazier, Ness-Capone, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd make up just some of the best known rivalries of all time. When it comes to baseball, some argue that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is the biggest in the game. If that’s true, then the long standing fierce competition between the Dodgers and the Giants, which has its roots in the late nineteenth century, can’t be too far behind. It has transcended time and geography. To take a page from the movie “Jerry Maguire”, these two teams complete each other, and when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles after the 1957 season, they knew they had to convince their arch rival Giants to join them on the West coast. Just like Batman and the Joker, the Giants and Dodgers “hate” each other, but they also need and feed off of each other at the same time.
Although they’ve won the NL Division title for three straight seasons, the Dodgers have been unable to extend their winning ways into the postseason, and without any World Championships to show for their regular season success, they parted ways with manager Don Mattingly after the 2015 season.
The Giants may have not won as many recent division titles as the Dodgers, but they’ve been busy winning World Championships in every even numbered year since 2010, (that’s three titles in the past six years), and in case you haven’t noticed, 2016 is an even numbered year.
Dodgers’ Offseason Moves
The Dodgers lost one of the best pitchers in baseball when Zack Greinke signed a long-term deal with the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks, and finding his replacement will be nearly impossible. Brett Anderson, who won 10 games for the Dodgers last season, accepted their one year $15.8 million qualifying offer. Although the lefty starter had a rather high HR/FB rate last season, Anderson’s a groundball pitcher who benefited from the Dodgers’ major league leading defense. Anderson has been injury prone and should only be considered as a back end addition to your Fantasy rotation, or a pitcher to keep on your bench for insurance purposes. The Dodgers also hope that LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, who underwent shoulder surgery on his left labrum last May, will be ready for the start of the season and quickly return to the form that saw him post a 28-15 won-loss record, with a 3.17 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in his two seasons as the Dodgers’ number three pitcher. They also have RHP Brandon McCarthy waiting in the wings as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. He could be back in the Dodgers’ rotation by mid-season.
The Dodgers lost their 2015 opening day double play combination of SS Jimmy Rollins and 2B Howie Kendrick to free agency, however, there’s plenty of buzz about rookie SS Corey Seager. The power hitting shortstop batted .337 in 98 major league ABs last season and on average, is being drafted in the fifth round of typical 12-team NFBC preseason Fantasy Baseball leagues.
Injuries limited Yasiel Puig to just 79 games last season and the Dodgers hope that he will return to the form that saw him bat .305 over the first two seasons of his major league career. Puig’s ADP has plummeted, and on average is the 25th outfielder taken in NFBC drafts this preseason.
Here’s a look at the Fantasy outlooks for some of the Dodgers’ most notable offseason additions.
Scott Kazmir, SP
The Dodgers signed LHP Scott Kazmir, who split the 2015 season between the A’s and the Astros, to a three-year $48 million contract. Kazmir has seen his ups and downs, and the former All-Star and league leader in strikeouts actually spent the 2012 season pitching in independent leagues. He worked his way back into baseball in 2013, and eventually won 15 games for the A’s in 2014. Kazmir pitched to a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts for the A’s last season, but his ERA jumped to 4.17 once he was traded and had to make his home starts in homer-friendly Minute Maid Park. Although his fastball can still reach the low to mid 90s, since his resurrection in 2013, Kazmir has pitched like an ace at times, but he has also lacked consistency. Kazmir should benefit from making half his starts in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, but if you do decide to draft him, be prepared to put him on the trading block just before the All-Star break. Over the past two seasons, Kazmir has pitched to a 2.43 first half ERA, but in the second half his ERA climbed to 4.61 during that same two year period.
Kenta Maeda, SP
The Dodgers signed Japanese RHP Kenta Maeda to a three-year incentive laden $25 million contract. There is always concern when a Japanese pitcher, who pitches every six or seven days, makes the move to the major leagues and has to adjust to pitching every fifth day, however Maeda’s career numbers in Japan are outstanding. Although he is slight of build (6’ 154 pounds) Maeda throws a fastball that registers in the 90 to 93 MPH range, but his out pitch is his slider. He also mixes in a changeup and tosses the occasional curveball for good measure. With a strikeout rate of 7.4 K/9 and a walk rate of 1.9 walks per nine innings in more than 1500 innings pitched in his Japanese career, Maeda shouldn’t put too many runners on base. He is projected as the Dodgers’ number three starter. Watch his progress this spring as he adjusts to the feel of an American baseball and the Major League strike zone.
Micah Johnson, 2B
The Dodgers re-signed second baseman Chase Utley after Kendrick declined their one year qualifying offer, however, they also traded for speedy Micah Johnson, who was expected to be the White Sox’s long term answer at second base. Johnson struck out 30 times in 100 major league at bats last season, and was given an express ticket to the minors. In 78 AAA games, Johnson cut down on his strikeouts, batted .315 and stole 28 bases. Watch his progress closely in spring training. Utley showed some major regression last season (sorry folks, you don’t get any Fantasy points for fracturing your opponent’s leg while trying to break up a double play), and if his skills continue to decline, Johnson’s role could increase and he may have some sleeper potential.
Giants’ Offseason Moves
Although he hasn’t been Fantasy relevant for the past few years and is nowhere near the pitcher that he was during his Cy Young Award seasons, Tim Lincecum’s departure from the Giants as a free agent represents a changing of the guard. The signing of free agent starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija shows that the Giants acknowledge that it’s time to move on.
The Giants’ front office, considered one of the best in baseball, also let free agent starting pitchers Mike Leake and Ryan Vogelsong walk, along with outfielder Nori Aoki, as they tweak their roster for another run at a world title.
In southpaw SP Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have one of the premiere real life and Fantasy starting pitchers in the game on their roster. Although he tailed off in the second half the Giants seemed to discover a good young option for the back of their rotation in Chris Heston; and once he got healthy, Jake Peavy put together a solid second half and ended up posting his lowest overall ERA since 2009. Of the two, Heston may have slightly more Fantasy value, but each player comes with a bit of risk, and should only be taken in the latter rounds of season-long drafts. The Giants also have former 16 game winner RHP Matt Cain waiting in the wings if one of the Giants’ starting pitchers falters during the season, but with his recent injury history, it might be best to watch his progress and consider him as a future waiver wire pick up.
As for their offense, the Giants lay claim to the best catcher in Fantasy baseball in Buster Posey. They are also hoping that OF Hunter Pence can rebound after an injury-plagued 2015 season. Despite limited playing time last season, if you project his statistics over an entire season he was still in line with his career numbers. When healthy, he’s a lock to hit around .280, with 20 plus home runs and lower double-digit steals. He could be a draft day bargain. Shortstop Brandon Crawford can provide you with some power and run production at a weak Fantasy position and 3B Matt Duffy surprised many with a solid rookie campaign in which he batted .295, drove in 77 runs and stole 12 bases. Both are currently being drafted after the 11th round of a typical 12-team league in NFBC drafts.
Here’s a closer look at the Fantasy outlooks for some of the Giants’ most notable offseason additions
Johnny Cueto, SP
Getting traded to the Royals in the middle of last season may have slightly damaged Johnny Cueto’s Fantasy value heading into the 2016 season, but it didn’t prevent him from signing a six-year $130 million contract. Last season, Cueto’s ERA ballooned to 4.76 in 13 starts with the Royals (it was 2.62 in 19 starts with the Reds), and at the same time his K/9 rate dropped to 6.2 from 8.3, but that’s all in the past. Cueto is back in the NL, and making his home starts in a pitcher’s park. With a healthy arm and a fastball that still registers into the mid-90s on the radar gun, I see no reason why he couldn’t return to the form that saw him finish second in the voting for the Cy Young award two seasons ago and provide your Fantasy team with double-digit wins, and above average strikeout, ERA and WHIP statistics. He could end up providing you with good Fantasy value, as he is currently the 22nd pitcher being drafted in NFBC preseason Fantasy Baseball leagues.
Jeff Samardzija, SP
By signing him to a five-year deal, the Giants obviously showed they have faith in Jeff Samardzija, but it’s difficult to predict which pitcher will show up in San Francisco this season. Will it be the Samardzija who posted a lackluster 4.96 ERA while giving up 228 hits in 214 innings for the White Sox last season, or will it be the starter who pitched to a 2.99 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP in 33 starts for the Cubs and A’s in 2014? Samardzija claims that last season’s struggles were caused by him tipping his pitches. If true, and since hitters would have known what was coming, that could explain the jump in opposing batters contact rates and the drop in Samardzija’s first strike and swinging strike rates. He claims that he corrected the problem late last season and points to his last two dominant starts of 2015 as proof. His fastball still reaches the mid-90s and he should benefit from the move to San Francisco’s pitcher’s park. Watch his progress this spring. If he returns to his 2014 form, he could be a buy low candidate.
Denard Span, OF
Denard Span spent much of last season battling hip and back injuries, and finally underwent surgery in September to repair his torn labrum. He is expected to be ready for opening day and should be the Giants’ leadoff hitter. The lifetime .287 hitter has always been a source for a high batting average, runs and steals, and with the potent Giants’ lineup batting behind him, 90 plus runs scored are not out of the question. He is also valuable in OBP leagues.