Key Statistics: There is no doubt that Matt Kemp had a disappointing 2010 season. All last winter, “The Franchise” was universally regarded as one of the best outfielders in the game – maybe the best next to Ryan Braun. He was a 5 category contributor, and a guy you could build your team – fantasy or otherwise – around. Then 2010 happened:
162 G, 82 R, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 19 SB, .249/.310/.450, .760 OPS
This is an obviously disappointing follow up to his 97 R/26 HR/89 RBI/34 SB/.297 BA 2010 season. But keep in mind that even with a “down” year, Kemp still established a career high in homers and produced at a good (albeit not keeper-level) clip. Also, his line-drive and fly-ball percentages were all in line with his 2010 numbers, and his HR/FB percentage was his highest over a full season.
One more note – Matt has played 155, 159 and 162 games over the past three seasons. He’s been the picture of perfect health. Even with a year similar to this past one, you can always pencil in Matty Franchise for nearly a full season of production. Kemp is still an elite athlete, one of the best in the league in fact, and still has all the tools to be a top 5 OF in fantasy baseball. I’d like to think that last season was just an outlier due to Kemp’s youth.
Skeptics Say: Kemp’s drop in production was due to his lack of discipline, plain and simple. The Franchise has always been a reckless player, and last season it all caught up to him. Every facet of his game was affected – in the field (he posted a negative UZR after winning a Gold Glove the season before), at the plate (had a career-high 179 punchouts) and on the base paths (caught stealing 15 times in 34 attempts).
Though Kemp is no stranger to high strikeout numbers (153 in 2008 and 139 in 2009), he has a career line of being successful in 2/3 of his steal attempts and has a .285 BA. The good news about all of this is that Kemp is still only 26 and has a new coaching staff coming in. Davey Lopes is the new first base coach, coming over from the Phillies, where they led the majors in stolen base percentage each of his 4 seasons there. New manager (and former batting champ) Don Mattingly is reportedly much closer with Kemp than Joe Torre ever was, which will hopefully have an effect on Kemp’s plate discipline.
Peer Comparison: Matt Kemp, Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Braun couldn’t look like 3 more different people, but are all close comparables. They are all 5-tool, 5-fantasy category players and obvious high draft picks.
Choo: 81 R, 22 HR, 90 RBI, 22 SB, .300 BA, .885 OPS
Kemp: 82 R, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 19 SB, .249 BA .760 OPS
Braun: 101 R, 25 HR, 103 RBI, 14 SB, .307 BA, .866 OPS
Looking at these numbers, its easy to suspect that Kemp should be picked last out of the bunch. Ryan Braun has had 4 years of steady production is the second-best OF option in fantasy (next to Carlos Gonalzez – I am refusing to ever use “CarGo”. It sounds like a Hertz subsidiary). Choo put up great numbers on a terrible Cleveland team and will put up the SB that can rival Kemp’s. But the Indians haven’t gotten any better this offseason – they are putting their hopes largely on a bunch of aging prospects and Grady Sizemore’s knee coming off of microfracture surgery. That all being said, I would have to take Braun first, Kemp second and Choo third. The Choo Choo train has gone very much under the radar while playing in Cleveland and has put up a steady .897 OPS over the past three seasons and is thus the safer bet here. But in terms of superstar potential, if Kemp gets his head on straight, he could eclipse that .897 OPS, adding more homers (he’s hit more than Choo each of the past 3 seasons) and SB.
Lineup Outlook: On most MLB depth charts for the 2011 season, writers have Kemp down in the 2 hole behind Rafael Furcal. Andre Ethier, Loney and Case Blake will be following up Kemp, with the 5 spot possibly shifting between Blake, Juan Uribe and Rod Barajas. No matter what the combination, that’s not good news for Dodgers fans or Matt Kemp owners. The Franchise will undoubtedly remain a good source for run production, but won’t be able to fill his full potential unless the Dodgers make some moves to bring in another hitter; most likely a left fielder who’s name isn’t Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr. or Marcus Thames. That sentence gave me the willies.
Projection: Kemp needed a swift kick in the pants. I think Mattingly and Lopes give it to him this year, but the poor offense behind him will prevent him from hitting his high ceiling.
98 R, 27 HR, 98 RBI, 25 SB, .290 BA
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