Finally! The Matt Kemp breakout we've been waiting for! In 2011, Kemp hit 39HR, 126RBI, 115R, 40SB, .324 Avg. Considering all 5 categories, the only other player I can think of who had season like that in the last five years was Eric Brynes in 2007 (21HR, 83RBI, 103R, 50SB, .286 Avg). So coming into the 2012 season Matt Kemp is a slam dunk to repeat last season right? Well I am telling you Kemp surely has the talent to repeat last season but there are a number of warning signs Mr. Kemp to consider.
1. First and foremost, Matt Kemp just signed an 8-year $160 million dollar extension a couple of weeks ago. Many times in the past when a player has signed that kind of guaranteed contract two things come up. First, the player has a tendency to become complacent. These players are human beings and after getting a contract like that there is a tendency to work a little less and enjoy life a little more. The other side of it sometimes after a player signs a contract like that he tries to prove he is worth that contract and puts way too much pressure on himself. The result is the player gets off to a very slow start which greatly impact his final numbers.
2. Going into the 2012 season there was a lot of talk about Matt Kemp and his amazing talent but the perceived lack of focus, drive, dedication etc. In fact, last winter on one of the MLB network hot stove shows Larry Bowa who was around Matt Kemp as one of the Dodger coaches from 2008 through 2010 said and to paraphrase that "Matt Kemp is a 5-tool talent who brings two tools a night". This kind of comment on someone who was around Kemp for three years says a lot and should give you cause for concern in terms of a complacency issue.
3. Kemp has always had strong power and speed numbers, but his 2010 season was one very similar to Arizona's Chris Young. Kemp did have 28HR but was in the 80's in terms of runs & rbi's and while he had 19 steals he was thrown out 15 times and Kemp just hit .249 in 2010. There were a lot of questions about Kemp going into last season.
4. You have to figure other teams are going to make someone else beat them in that Dodger lineup next season.
Now I will give you reasons to believe in Kemp.....
5. Matt Kemp has always had this elite ability and he is entering his prime years now. So it's no surprise he put together a huge year in terms of power and speed. While he hit .249 in 2010 in his 3 full seasons, prior to that Kemp hit .297, .290 and .342.
6. The coaching staff, Don Mattingly from 1984 - 1987 was one of the top three players in all of baseball and the only reason that stopped playing was because of a bad back. One would have to think Mattingly's influence has had a huge effect on Kemp. In addition, last season Davey Lopes joined the Dodger coaching staff from Philadelphia. Lopes as a coach is an awesome base stealer technician - teacher in helping his players learning the art of the stolen base. Lopes did this in Philadelphia and was an amazing base stealer as a player. While Lopes had real good speed he also new the art of stealing bases and this was passed on to Kemp. Lopes had 557 career steals and just to show how well he knew how to steal bases in 1985 when Lopes was 40 years old he played for the Cubs and stole 47 bases in 51 attempts. Like I said in 2010 Kemp had 19 steals in 34 attempts, in 2011 Kemp had 40 steals in 51 attempts. That Davey Lopes factor and odds are Kemp we get better and better at stealing bases with Davey Lopes around.
7. The initial signs are Kemp is still very hunger to prove he is one of the top 2 or 3 players in baseball as he recently proclaimed that in 2012 Kemp is gunning for a 50-50 season between HR's & SB's.
8. Matt Kemp has that kind of scary talent to put up monster numbers year after monster year.
NL King Recommendation:
I think I have made compelling arguments to be wary of the warning signs but realize Matt Kemp's talent. Bottom line is it will be very hard for Kemp to duplicate last season and I do fully expect teams to be very careful with him. That translates to Kemp should see a lot less pitches to hit next year and teams will make someone else beat them. Provided he avoids the injury bug (last 4 seasons has played at least 155 games per season) I expect him to have a strong year across the board but his numbers I think we be down some in 2012 with the exception that I can see a few more steals. So come draft day buy Matt Kemp and expect a strong year just not last years numbers.
NL King - C.Lizza