Key Stats: The way things are going, Shawn Kemp is quickly becoming the least popular Kemp in professional sports history (Jack Kemp is a politician). The glass is very half-full looking at Matt Kemp’s stats. Nobody was projecting 35 stolen bases out of Kemp last season, but it happened. Kemp reached first via single, walk or hit 162 times last season. On average then he stole a base every 4.63 times he reached first base (stats aren’t included for times he was on first via error or fielder’s choice and steals of third were ignored for simplification). In 2006 Kemp was stealing a base with these same qualifications once every 5.13 times he reached first. The 0.5 increase isn’t huge given the presence of an aggressive manager like Joe Torre.
In addition to the steals, Kemp might have left some home runs on the table, but lookout this season. He hit one every 29 at bats in his cup of tea with the Dodgers in 2007 and only one every 34 at bats last season. With 38 doubles last year, expect a bump in the home runs.
Skeptics Say: Then again the development could come later for the 24 year old. He struck out a lot last season and didn’t walk enough. Without plate discipline, Kemp will have to adjust to pitchers throwing him more junk.
Peer Comparison: Yahoo has Kemp rated the 16th outfielder, but the 37th best player overall. Only 21 players from positions outside of the outfield are ranked ahead of Kemp. Given the depth at the position, some managers may take the strategy of punting outfielders in the early going, and building around the weaker positions. Last season outfielders such as Nate McLouth, Josh Hamilton, Ryan Ludwick, Xavier Nady, Carlos Quentin and Ethier were relatively cheap sources of top round talents. The year before players like B.J. Upton, Brad Hawpe, Corey Hart and Shane Victorino came from deeper in drafts to be major fantasy contributors. The strategy sounds tremendous on the surface, but the flaw of it is that other managers are going to be trying to beat you to the punch.
The strategy sounds good, but many other managers have position scarcity on their minds. If that is the case a player like Kemp might slip a round or two later then he should and even if he wasn’t in the original strategy this sort of upside can’t be ignored.
Lineup Outlook: Manny Ramirez is a free spirit (putting it kindly). His agent is stubborn to a fault. The fact is that the Dodgers will sign Manny at some point, so don’t sweat it when picking Kemp. If Rafael Furcal is still bothered by back problems, Kemp stands to benefit as the leadoff man. Odds are here that Furcal will miss significant action. If not, Kemp will move around until Torre is convinced that he is better than both James Loney and Andre Ethier and will hit fourth behind Ramirez.
What They’re Saying: MLB.com: #14 Outfielder and #38 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #22 Outfielder and #99 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #40 Overall; Fox Sports: #12 Outfielder; ESPN: #11 Outfielder; Yahoo: #16 Outfielder and #37 Overall
Projection: He will continue to grow. Ignore the 99 rank that CBS gives him – the ranking is fairly outdated.
92R 23 HR 29 SB 97 RBI .292 .820
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