April 19, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) reacts after reaching second on a two run RBI double in the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kemp has a lot to prove, and more importantly needs to have a big year. I know it’s really early in the season, but he has to re-establish himself as one of the go to Dodgers. Like he once was. His injury problems have derailed his last two years, and many have questioned as to why the Dodgers keep giving him the benefit of the doubt. He has virtually been non-existent for two seasons and many believed that he would be dealt this past off-season. This year represents a fresh start for him, but he’s going to have to prove his worth. The reality is Matt Kemp needs to have a big year.
He was on edge this past off-season, and became frustrated with the trade rumors. A Matt Kemp trade looked like a done deal, with the amount of rumors that were surfacing from left and right. I was in the group of Dodger fans who felt that Kemp’s time had come to an end, and was on board with a trade. It’s nothing against him as a person, it’s against his ability to stay healthy. I’m sure the Dodgers front office feels the same way, and will wait and see if Kemp can stay healthy and be productive this year. Other wise, Kemp may have a one way ticket out-of-town this winter.
According to ESPN’s MLB player profile, Kemp is projected to appear in 108 games this year. If that’s the case, that would be awesome! He has only appeared in 179 games the last two years combined. I know it’s reading between the lines, but Kemp has to shake off this injury prone image. It hasn’t faded away yet. He has looked OK in the twelve games that he’s played in so far, but he doesn’t even have the full confidence from Manager Don Mattingly
In the Dodgers home opener against the San Francisco Giants, Kemp was cleared to play, but Mattingly didn’t even bother inserting him into the starting lineup. It wasn’t until Yasiel Puig decided to show up late, that Kemp was then inserted into the lineup. Puig was scratched from the lineup, due to his tardiness, but even Kemp knew that he wasn’t in the good graces of management yet.
He had a fairly decent series against the Giants, hitting two home runs in a game and giving Dodger fans glimpses from the past. But, it’s clear that Don Mattingly doesn’t feel confident about Kemp, even with his past success. And if Puig did show up on time, Kemp would have probably watched from the dugout with a look of discontent and uncertainty.
Past success is what Kemp is virtually living off at this point. I’m not trying to bash Kemp in any way, but he’s on a short leash this year. He’s on a deep and talented Dodgers team, who are favored to go all the way this year. If they can avoid the injury bug. They were close last year, but simply couldn’t pull off the miracle of advancing. As the Dodgers created a buzz around the City of Los Angeles, making a deep playoff run, Matt Kemp had to endure the team’s success as a spectator. Had he been healthy, maybe last year’s outcome would have ended differently for the Dodgers. Maybe Matt Kemp is the missing piece to the Dodgers puzzle?
The leader that Matt Kemp portrays himself to be has to come into effect if the Dodgers want to become that fearful team, not just in the National League, but in all of baseball. He posses a power bat, and has to gain back the confidence as an everyday player if he’s going to have to a big year, and not get injured.
He has to find his stride and his role on the team again, and may have to accept the fact that he’s a role player and not a franchise player anymore. The Dodgers have a great and well-balanced offensive attack, and the only thing Kemp needs to do is insert himself as that home-run hitter, who opposing pitchers fear. He doesn’t need to be the face of the franchise anymore, but he can still be effective as a leader for his younger teammates. The Dodgers have changed drastically over the last two years in his absence due to injuries, but it’s not to late for him to be the player and leader he once was.
Everyday the spotlight gets a little dim for Matt Kemp. That’s probably what he needs for a big bounce back year. A dim spotlight to re-insert himself as a power bat in the middle of the lineup. He also needs to prove himself to the Dodgers front office, and to the coaching staff. If he doesn’t, he will become just another expensive contract, who’s injured every year. The Dodgers have a surplus of prospects waiting in the wings, and if Kemp isn’t effective this year, he may be the odd man out. That is something that probably crosses his mind every now and then. Besides if the Dodgers do trade Kemp, they are risking that he may be bounce back into the old Matt Kemp. An intimidating hitter, who can carry an offense by himself.
His leadership qualities are going to be vital for the Dodgers success this year and beyond. He isn’t the Matt Kemp we once knew for his stellar offense and great catches out in center filed, but he is still a part of the Dodgers. The Dodgers have a window of opportunity to be very good and perhaps dominant for the next few years, and Kemp has to know that. He could be the final piece to the puzzle in an interesting and fun lineup. He needs a big year in all aspects of his game and, provide the leadership qualities to show that he is still one of the top dogs in Los Angeles, and in Major League Baseball.