Matt Kemp

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Matthew Ryan Kemp
(The Bison)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Outfielder Matt Kemp was drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was signed by scout Mike Leuzinger and debuted that year with the GCL Dodgers, hitting .270/.298/.346. A year later, he hit .288/.330/.499 for the Columbus Catfish and moved up to the Vero Beach Dodgers, where he batted .351/.405/.568 in 11 contests. In 2004-2005, he was second in the Arizona Fall League with a .383 batting average.

Kemp led the Vero Beach Dodgers with 27 homers and 90 RBI in 2005, overall producing a .306/.349/.569 line and also swiping 23 bases. He led the Florida State League in slugging, was second in homers, sixth in average and made the FSL All-Star team at DH. He was rated the 5th-best prospect in the league by Baseball America.

After a strong start in 2006 with the Jacksonville Suns (.327/.402/.528), he made his major league debut with Los Angeles but was sent back down to AAA for most of July and August. Baseball America named him the top power prospect and most exciting player in the Southern League despite only 48 games there. Kemp hit .368/.428/.560 in 44 games for the Las Vegas 51s with 37 runs and 36 RBI. He also stole 14 bases in 17 tries. Baseball America rated him the #6 prospect in the Pacific Coast League, between Andy LaRoche and Chris Young. At the major league level, he hit .253 in 52 games.

He hit .222/~.295/.303 for the 2006-2007 Estrellas Orientales and hit .329 for the Las Vegas 51s in 2007 before being brought back to the Dodgers, where he played in 98 games hitting .342 with 10 HR and 42 RBI. He was part of an exciting trio of young hitters for the Dodgers that season, alongside Andre Ethier and James Loney, although the team's overall performance was affected by a rift between the team's highly-paid veterans, led by Jeff Kent, and its more productive youngsters, a rift which cost manager Grady Little his job after the season. Now established as the Dodgers' starting centerfielder, Kemp played 155 games in 2008, hitting .290 with 38 doubles and 18 homers as the Dodgers won the NL West title. He was only 2 for 13 as the Dodgers swept the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS, then redeemed himself with a 5-for-15 performance in the NLCS, but the Dodgers lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games. He had an excellent season in 2009, winning both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award as the Dodgers repeated as NL West champions. He hit .296 with 26 homers and 101 RBI, topping both the 20-homer and 100-RBI mark for the first time. He was 2 for 14, but with a key home run, a two-run shot off Chris Carpenter in the bottom of the 1st inning of Game One, as the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, then was 5 for 20 with another homer as the Dodgers again bowed to the Phillies in the NLCS.

Kemp was seen dating singing star Rihanna in 2010 before the two broke up towards the end of the year. Some blamed his poor performance during the season to the distraction caused by the celebrity buzz around the couple. He ended the year hitting only .249, although he did play all 162 of his team's game that season and launched 28 homers. He bounced back in a big way in 2011, making the All-Star team for the first time. On August 26th, he hit his 30th homer to become the second player in Dodgers history to join the 30-30 club, after Raul Mondesi who did it twice in the 1990s. He also had 33 steals with a month left in the season at that point, and was also only 2 RBI away from a second 100-RBI season. He finished the year hitting .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI - the latter two league-leading totals -, and was second behind Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in the vote for the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award. When it was later revealed that Braun had tested positive for a banned substance during the postseason, there were calls to attribute the award to Kemp, although these died down fairly quickly, and Braun was eventually cleared because of a lapse in the testing protocol.

Kemp started 2012 exactly where he had left off in 2011, annihilating opposing pitchers to the tune of a .417 average and 12 homers in April. He was also first in the National League in hits (35), RBI (25) and slugging percentage (.893) on his way to winning the league's Player of the Month award by unanimous vote. Buoyed by Kemp's outstanding production, the Dodgers were off to an excellent 16-7 start. On May 14th, his consecutive games played streak ended at 399 when he was not in the line-up for a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks; it was the longest active streak in the majors, but he had to be removed from the previous day's game with a pulled hamstring, and then was placed on the 15-day disabled list at the end of the game he failed to start. He was hitting .359 with 12 homers and 28 RBI at the time, having cooled down after his torrid first month. He returned to action on May 29th, but reinjured the hamstring in his second game back. He was placed on the disabled list once again, with a prognosis of eight weeks before his return. He was voted a starter in the 2012 All-Star Game but had to pull out because of the injury, although he did state that he would fulfill his role as captain of the National League squad at the Home Run Derby. He returned to action on July 13th, immediately after the All-Star break, and was still hitting .337 when he crashed into the outfield fence in the 1st inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies on August 28th, vainly trying to catch a triple by Josh Rutledge. He had to leave the game, although he had avoided a concussion. He finished the season with a batting line of .303/.367/.538 in 106 games, good for an OPS+ of 147, although all the time missed limited him to 22 doubles, 23 homers and 69 RBI. He had to have surgery on his left shoulder after the season.

Kemp started the 2013 season relatively slowly, as on May 19th, he only had hit one homer, to go along with a .265 batting average, for an OPS+ of only 83. He hit his second homer of the next year the next day, but his lack of production had contributed to a very slow start by the team, and manager Don Mattingly's job was in peril. More trouble followed when he had to be placed on the disabled list with a hamstring strain on May 30th. He missed almost a month of action, only returning on June 25th. During his absence, the Dodgers had managed to turn around their season, thanks largely to the inspired play of his replacement, rookie Yasiel Puig, who had set the NL on fire. Kemp was back for only 10 games, during which he went 9 for 33 with a pair of homers, before returning to the DL on July 8th, this time with a shoulder problem, although the Dodgers were saying it was not related to his off-season surgery. He came back with a vengeance on July 21st, hitting a double and a homer to lead the Dodger to a 9-2 win over the Washington Nationals that gave the Dodgers a share of first place in the NL West, a remarkable turnaround after their early struggles. However, he hurt his ankle sliding into home in the top of the 9th inning and went right back on the disabled list as a result. He only returned on September 16th, when he struck out to end the game as a pinch-hitter in a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. By then, the Dodgers had pretty much clinched the NL West title, and he was expected to play sparingly the rest of the way in order to be ready for the postseason. However, he experienced more swelling in the season's last few days and the Dodgers had to announce reluctantly that he would be unable to play at all in the postseason.

Kemp returned to the Dodgers' line-up on April 4, 2014 for the team's home opener, after having missed the team's two-game series in Australia and its first road series. He was not originally expected to start on his first day back, but Yasiel Puig showed up late for the game and was scratched from the line-up. Kemp went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored in his first game back. On April 6th, he hit a pair of homers off Matt Cain of the Giants in a 6-2 win; those were his first two long balls of the season, and his first homers at Dodger Stadium since 2012 as all 6 of his homers the previous season had been hit on the road. He finished the year on a strong note, being named the NL's Player of the Month for September, when he hit .322 with 9 homers and 25 RBIs. He ended up having a very good year, as he played 150 games, hitting .287 with 38 doubles and 25 homers, scoring 77 runs and driving in 89. He played all of those games in spite of not having a regular spot in the outfield: he started 59 games in right, where Puig was the regular, 44 in left where Carl Crawford saw most of the action, and 34 in center field, where Andre Ethier was the most used. He was also excellent in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he went 6 for 17 (.353) with a home run, but the Dodgers were eliminated in four games.

On December 11, 2014, the Dodgers traded Kemp with Tim Federowicz to the San Diego Padres for Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland. because of concerns over the health of Kemp's hip, the deal was not made official until December 18th; it was also revealed that the Dodgers had agreed to pay $32 million of the money due to Matt over the remainder of his contract in order to make the trade happen. He had a good first game for the Padres on Opening Day, April 6, 2015, as he drove in three runs against his former team, the Dodgers, although that wasn't enough as the Padres lost, 6-3. On August 14th, he became the first player in Padres history to hit for the cycle when he did so in a 9-5 win against the Colorado Rockies. He needed to hit a triple in the 9th inning to complete the feat, after starting off the game with a two-run homer in the 1st. He hit .265 in 154 games for the Padres, with 31 doubles, 23 homers, 80 runs and 100 RBIs. Those numbers were even better than they appeared, given how tough his home park, Petco Park was on hitters. His OPS+ was an outstanding 141.

The Padres did not score any runs in their first three games of the 2016 season, but they then broke out for a couple of big games at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies and Matt was right in the middle of things. On April 8th, he homered and drove in 4 runs in a 13-6 win, and the following day he hit a pair of homers and knocked in 6 runs in a 16-3 victory. It was the start to a nice first few months for the right fielder, who by the end of July was hitting .262 with 24 doubles, 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 100 games. The Padres were pleased with his production, but had decided to move on to full-scale rebuilding, so his age and large contract no longer fit into their plans. On July 30th, they sent him to the Atlanta Braves, who agreed to take on most of his contract, in return for 3B Hector Olivera, who was due a lot of money as well, but only a third as much. To erase any thought that the deal was anything other than a financial ploy, the Padres had acquired Olivera just in order to designate him for assignment and liquidate the remainder of his contract. He hit .280 in 56 games with 15 doubles and 12 homers to finish the season at .268 in 156 games with 39 doubles and 35 homers, with 89 runs and 108 homers.

On April 29, 2017, he had the first three-homer game of his career and drove in 5 runs in leading the Braves to an 11-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. The homers were off three different pitchers - Jimmy Nelson, Tommy Milone and Jhan Marinez. He played 115 games for the Braves and hit .276 with 19 homers and 64 RBIs. On December 16th, he was traded back to the Dodgers in return for four players, all established veterans: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SS Charlie Culberson and Ps Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy. The unusual deal was designed to free salary for the Dodgers in a year's time in order to allow them to bid for some high-end free agents expected to come on the market at the time. If Kemp was an afterthought, he certainly did not play like it at the beginning of the 2018 season, as he was Los Angeles's best hitter. He hit .319 with 4 homers in April and .361 in May, with 3 homers and 17 RBIs. On June 13th, he barreled into Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos to score from second base in the 3rd inning, igniting a bench-clearing brawl. Both players were suspended for one game for their actions. On July 2nd, Kemp tied a career best with 5 hits in leading the Dodgers to a 17-1 beating of the Pittsburgh Pirates, driving in 4 runs. he had 15 homers and 55 RBIs while hitting .323, continuing his strong bid to return to the All-Star Game after a six-year absence. On September 1-2, he victimized Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks on back-to-back days. In the first game, he hit a three-run homer off him in the 8th to put the Dodgers ahead to stay, then the following night hit a game-ending two-run double in the 9th in a 3-2 win. Those two victories put the Dodgers in first place in the NL West. He finished the year at .290 with 21 homers and 85 RBIs in 146 games. In a crowded Dodgers outfield, he did not see regularly play in the postseason, but still got into 13 games, going 4 for 23 with a homer as the Dodgers lost the 2018 World Series to the Boston Red Sox.

On December 21, 2018, Kemp was traded again, joining OF Yasiel Puig, P Alex Wood and C Kyle Farmer in heading to the Cincinnati Reds in return for P Homer Bailey - who was immediately released by Los Angeles - and trow prospects. The deal was clearly designed to clear roster and salary place for the eventual signing of a big-ticket free agent, presumably OF Bryce Harper. he started the 2019 season slowly, hitting an even .200 in his first 20 games, with just 1 homer and 5 RBIs. On April 22nd, he was placed on the injured with a broken rib, the result of crashing into the outfield wall the day before. On May 4th, the Reds released him, a day after calling up top prospect Nick Senzel, as he no longer fit into the team's plans. He was batting .200 in 20 games. On May 24th, he signed a minor league contract with the injury-riddled New York Mets but played only 8 games for the AAA Syracuse Mets, hitting .235, then was released again on July 12th. His career appeared to be well an truly over at that point, but on December 18th, he signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins accompanied by an invitation to spring training in 2020. He was released in late June, just before spring training resumed, but found a spot with the Colorado Rockies and ended up playing 43 games, hitting .239 with 6 homers and 21 RBIs for the last-place club. He became a free agent again after the season, but had been unable to find a team when spring training opened.

Sources: 2004-2007 Baseball Almanacs,

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time NL All-Star (2011, 2012 & 2018)
  • 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2009 & 2011)
  • 2-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2009 & 2011)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (2011)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (2011)
  • NL Home Runs Leader (2011)
  • NL RBI Leader (2011)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (2009-2012, 2014-2016 & 2018)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2011 & 2016)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (2009, 2011, 2015 & 2016)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2011)

Further reading[edit]

  • Ken Gurnick: "Kemp, 40 pounds lighter, back with Dodgers: Outfielder on return to LA camp for first time since '14: 'Like I never left'",, February 13, 2018. [1]
  • Lyle Spencer: "Dream team? Kemp thinking big at Padres camp: Slugger brings charm to new clubhouse, confident that Majors' best outfield resides in San Diego",, February 25, 2015. [2]

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