by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Dodgers outfield is crowded, there’s no denying that, and the potential for Joc Pederson to force his way into the mix could make things that much worse (though there are legitimate concerns, as we discussed on Sunday). The Dodgers are currently in second place in the NL West, 6.5 games behind the Giants. While they do currently hold one of the Wild Card spots, they are only 0.5 games ahead of the Marlins & Nationals with the Pirates and Reds also looming.
The point is that the Dodgers can only stay patient for so long. Eventually something is going to have to give, and that may be Pederson joining the team for a spark. The play of their outfielders, outside of Puig, has helped to make that a potential reality. Carl Crawford is hurt. Andre Ethier is overhyped, and miscast as a center fielder. Then there’s Matt Kemp, who has played well lately but overall there are still concerns…
The former 40/40 threat is clearly a shell of his former self, hitting .264 with 6 HR and 5 SB through Sunday. Injuries have obviously played a major role and no one is expecting him to get back to the player he once was. He’s certainly playing well right now but can he maintain it, or if he could once again find himself riding the pine?
This is the second consecutive season that Kemp’s power is down, after hitting 6 HR in 263 AB last season. His HR/FB has rebounded a bit overall this season, at 14.3%, but all of that came in April (4 HR and a 23.5% mark). In fact, he hit a pair of home runs on April 6, which was his third game of the season. He has 4 HR in the 58 games that have followed.
That’s a major issue, and a lot of it stems from him consistently driving the ball into the ground. The owner of a career 41.5% groundball rate, this season the mark has ballooned to 46.1%. That’s a big jump, and helps explain why his fly ball rate is down to 27.3%. While you don’t want an extreme number of fly balls, you can’t hit home runs if you are simply grounding out (especially since he’s clearly lost a step).
He has posted an impressive 26.6% line drive rate, so there’s that glimmer of hope. However, he does own a .338 BABIP so it’s not like he’s been completely unlucky leading to a poor average. Instead, it’s the lack of power and an elevated strikeout rate (25.4% after a 26.2% mark in 2013) costing him a chance to hit for average.
Is there a chance Kemp continues to rediscover himself? It’s not impossible, though he’s never going to be the player who carried fantasy squads. There’s a chance that the Dodgers grow impatient (if/when he slumps again), as they try to make the playoffs, and either bench him or trade him to open up a spot for Pederson.
Regardless, the situation easily may not end well for Kemp. I’m certainly not buying if I don’t own him in a league. Would I sell? It really depends on the return, but if it seems like enough at this point I would. Consider me one who no longer believes.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com
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