The latest installment of my Player Profile series looks at a man with an unlimited ceiling of potential, Matt Kemp.
Kemp was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma where he attended Midwest City High School. Not only was he a standout baseball player, but a great basketball player as well. He skipped college when he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 6th round of the 2003 draft.
After spending the 2003 season in the Rookie league, he made his way to A and A+ ball for the 2004 season. He stayed in A ball at Vero Beach for the entire 2005 season, hitting .306 with 27 HR and 90 RBI in 109 games.
The 2006 season was quite the roller coaster ride. It started in Jacksonville for 48 games, then to Las Vegas for 44 games, then the call came to LA for 52 games. With the big club, he made a huge splash right away. After going 2-3 in his 2nd game in Atlanta, he proceeded to homer in 3 straight games to start the month of June vs. Philadelphia. On June 11, he hit 2 home runs in Colorado, and his AVG was as high as .378 in the middle of the month. For the month of June, he had a .293 AVG, 7 HR and 16 RBI. While he was giving a much needed power boost to the Dodgers, he also struck out 26 times.
As is the case with any number of rookies, he hit the proverbial wall after June. Playing time became less and less, as he only appeared in 25 games the rest of the way, finishing the season at .253 AVG, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 6 SB, 9 BB, 53 K. 9 walks and 53 strikeouts represented his free swinging ways quite nicely.
Even with the weak ending to the '06 season, he was penciled in as the main right fielder going into the 2007 season. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a separated shoulder in the home opener vs. Colorado on April 9. After rehabbing and spending 39 games back in Las Vegas, he returned on June 8 in Toronto. While he did receive the majority of playing time, he still had to sit at times with Andre Ethier, Luis Gonzalez, and Juan Pierre also vying for PT. Still, he put up some pretty impressive numbers when it was all said and done: .342 AVG, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 10 SB, 16 BB, 66 K. Even though he still did not take many walks, his plate discipline was much improved. He played in nearly double the amount of games as '06, yet his K's were much more under control.
For as many tools as he's shown the couple of years we've seen him in LA, his decision making is erratic too often. He has a cannon of an arm, yet will unleash unnecessary throws that sail over everybody. He has good speed, yet will get caught trying to get extra bases at bad times. Those factors have played in all of the trade talks, yet Ned Colletti has preferred to stay on the positive side and let him learn his way through the mistakes. Good move. He's still one of the top young players in baseball, so holding onto him is smart.
This upcoming season looks to be a big one for him. He's all but declared the starting right fielder. The addition of Andruw Jones and the return of Jeff Kent should give him plenty of RBI chances in a lineup that looks pretty good up and down. Can he turn into the big power hitter he's shown signs of in the past? Perhaps. I do know that if he cuts down on his silly mistakes, he's a legit All-Star consideration for years to come.