The Dodgers sure put Matt Kemp through the ringer this winter. First, it was a foregone conclusion he would be traded or released, then it turned into a wait and see approach.
The Dodgers gave Matt Kemp a shot to earn the starting left field role this spring and Matt Kemp did everything he could to earn it. Not only did Kemp show up forty pounds lighter, he showed up with a much better attitude and slugged five home runs this spring. With Andrew Toles coming off knee surgery and Joc Pederson’s struggles, there was no doubt the left field role would belong to Kemp at least to start the season.
So far fifteen games into the regular season, there is still much to be decided but for now, Matt Kemp is proving he is the man the Dodgers should start in left field. Kemp slugged a three-run home run in Monday night’s game and had the Dodgers team lead in RBI’s until Yasmani Grandal hit a grand slam in the ninth inning. For the season, Kemp has two home runs and seven RBI’s.
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Even defensively, Matt Kemp has shown enough to justify starting him in left field. Kemp currently has a DRS of 1, which is a big improvement for a guy who had a DRS of -17 last season. His UZR rating is -0.4 so far which is slightly below average since zero means a player is average defensively. That is also an improvement over his -9.2 UZR rating a year ago. Whether his defensive struggles the past few seasons have been due to weight, injury, or lack of effort, it’s clear that Matt Kemp is close to average defensively rather than being awful.
There was a lot of hype building for Andrew Toles after the game he went 4-5 but at least for now the Dodgers are better off letting Toles start in Triple-A every day to be ready in case an injury strikes Matt Kemp or Yasiel Puig. The Toles train was slowed due to his hamstring injury, and once again with Matt Kemp banging base hits to the tune of a .333 average and a .939 OPS.
For an offense that has struggled to get going, the Dodgers need to ride out Matt Kemp’s hot start as long as they can. There is a chance he could fade back into being an average hitter, but for now, he is swinging a hot bat and is capable of carrying the Dodgers offense with Justin Turner out. The Dodgers have struggled to find a consistent number three hitter with Turner out but Kemp could be a solid fill-in until JT is able to return.
The baseball season is one big marathon with many twists and turns. At least for the start of this season, Matt Kemp is having a revival season for the Dodgers. While Kemp and the Dodgers may not have a Hollywood ending, the beginning of this season has been nostalgic. Here’s to Matt Kemp leading the Dodgers to a World Series title, how’s that for a Hollywood ending?