October 15, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier (16) hits a single in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball: Potential injuries give Dodgers' Andre Ethier sleeper status in fantasy drafts

andre ethier

Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not the easiest thing to pick a “sleeper” from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ star-studded lineup, but no matter how fantasy-friendly a team is, there’s always sneaky value to find among a 25-man roster.

With a myriad of injury concerns in L.A., Dodgers’ fourth outfielder Andre Ethier is a player who offers a lot of speculative value in the late rounds of fantasy drafts.

» Andre Ethier, OF (current ADP: #272):

There’s no doubt the Dodgers were a little hasty when signing Andre Ethier to a five-year, $85 million extension in June of 2012.  Through 2011, he had produced yearly averages of 18 HR, 74 RBI, .291.  Not bad, but not worth the big bucks he got.

This became very evident last season when the Dodgers front office had a very difficult time trying to unload Ethier — and his salary — on another team via trade.

With Yasiel Puig making a splash in 2013 — and with Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford in tow — the Dodgers had little use for an eighty-five million dollar bench player.

It was a bad season in general for Ethier, who had career-worst numbers in multiple hitting categories.

His OPS (.783) and RBI totals (52) were the worst of his eight-year career and he scored his fewest runs since 2007, but there were some positives to be had.

His 61 walks (2nd best of career) and 95 strikeouts (lowest since 2008) led to a BB/K ratio of 0.64 — his best number since 2009.  The RBIs certainly weren’t there, but that had a lot to do with his place in the batting order.

In 2012, when he hit 20 HR and racked up 89 RBI, Ethier batted cleanup 54.3 percent of the time.  Last year, he had just 45 at bats in the fourth slot.  86.9 percent of the time he was hitting either fifth or sixth in the Dodgers’ lineup.

Having Ethier on hand ended up being beneficial in the end, as Kemp suffered one injury after another last season.

Kemp ended up missing 49 of the Dodgers’ 54 games in July and August, and that’s when Ethier shined the most, hitting .314 with 5 HR and 27 RBI during the two summer months.

As we head into the 2014 season, it looks like Kemp’s health will again be a question mark.  The Dodgers $160-million man underwent surgery on his left ankle this off-season and is highly questionable to play in the team’s opening series in Australia on March 22-23.

With Kemp’s brittleness and Crawford’s also tenuous injury past, Ethier could be in line for a lot of at bats this year.  It’s even possible he could be traded at some point, and he’d undoubtedly be a starter wherever he landed.  If you’re looking for some sneaky late-round value in your draft and don’t mind benching him vs. lefties (.235 career BA), with an auction price of $1, Andre Ethier is a bargain.

2014 Projections: .282/.361/.450, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 66 R, 5 SB

» Missed any of my earlier picks?  Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve covered from each team so far.

Tags: Andre Ethier Fantasy Baseball Fantasy Baseball Sleepers Los Angeles Dodgers

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