Dodgers: Matt Kemp Again Finds Himself an Important Piece of the Lineup

SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 16: Matt Kemp
SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 16: Matt Kemp /

Though the first twenty games, Hyun-Jin Ryu leads your Dodgers in WAR. Who didn’t see that coming? Many also didn’t see Matt Kemp producing a higher WAR than Cody Bellinger to this point. Kemp, who previously couldn’t be given away, once again finds himself a pivotal piece in LA’s lineup.

“Beast Mode” is back online. Through the season’s first twenty games, Matt Kemp has outshined many of the Dodger’s prized youngsters. He has produced a higher OPS than everybody not named Yasmani Grandal and has proven himself defensively thus far in the early going. Of course, it’s not even May, and the merciless MLB schedule will eventually take its toll on the veteran slugger. But the way Kemp has come in phenomenal shape after dropping 40 pounds has surprised everyone, even the Dodger skipper Dave Roberts:

"“I had him in San Diego (in 2015). I saw him last year. And to see the complete contrast in body composition? I’m surprised, yeah. Pleasantly surprised and excited for him."

Even though Roberts didn’t favor the word platoon, Kemp was expected to share left field with Joc Pederson in the early going, especially defensively. To this point, Kemp’s defensive metrics have looked very similar to Pederson, who has struggled mightily thus far. This can be attributed to a major increase in speed.

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Mike Petriello, in an interesting read, noted just how much faster Kemp is this year than last. He has led baseball in an increase in sprint speed, moving at 1.7 feet per second faster than he ran last year. Though his overall 26.6 FPS isn’t considered blazing by any means, its ranked at just about average. That’s more than the Dodger were hoping from Kemp.

The worries over Kemp scuffling a bit against lefties like he did this year have been erased. Kemp has produced a 1.300 OPS against lefties in the early going. That number is vital, given the absence of Justin Turner and the major struggles of Yasiel Puig.

To this point, Kemp has proven himself in just about every facet of the game. He has improved his defensive game and overall speed. His bat, which wasn’t a worry by most, has been even better than expected at .321/.362./547. It’s a far cry from the offseason for Kemp, whose value was widely considered to be somewhere between nada and zilch. No, it doesn’t appear a Matt Kemp trade is anywhere close to happening these days, despite the occasional erroneous rumor. 

Next: Dodgers overcoming their usual slow start

Kemp should be kept fresh and rested regularly. And while the birthday homer was nice, the idea that Dave Roberts needs to sit a blazing hot Kemp to get Joc Pederson going isn’t a favorite of mine. Not when the Dodgers have been attempting to get the career .221 hitter going most of his career. Especially not when “Beast Mode” is back online.