Here it is just about two weeks from players starting to report to Spring Training and they are getting the lockers ready at Camelback Ranch. The LA Beatwriters continue to sat that it is unlikely that Matt Kemp will be on the Opening Day Roster, but I happen to think Matt Kemp will be on the Opening Day Roster… unless:
1. He is physically unable to perform;
2. He is disruptive to the team chemistry; and/or
3. He is traded.
That’s the long and the short of it…. and that’s a lot of “IF’s.” I don’t know if the slow free agent market helps or hurts him, but if Spring Training starts and J.D. Martinez and other Free Agentss are unsigned AND if Boston says “Screw it – we need a bat” would they consider a healthy Matt Kemp if he was tearing up the Cactus League? Maybe…. if he cost them like just $8 million a year. UPSIDE of Kemp: This is a guy who could put up MVP-Type numbers, but that is a far-fetched idea.
I do think the Dodgers preference is to use a younger player in LF and they have plenty of Candidates. I will rank them in the order I see them:
- Joc Pederson – In the World Series, Joc showed he may have made some necessary changes in his swing. UPSIDE: This is a guy who can hit 40 HR. He certainly could win the spot with a his new “hardbody” amd changed approach at the plate.
- Andrew Toles – He has been pronounced “recovered” from his knee surgery and is a speedy asset with a good arm in LF. UPSIDE: This is a guy who could hit .300 with 15-20 HR and maybe even hit leadoff allowing Taylor to hit 5th or 6th.
- Alex Verdugo – His callup in September was a “wake up call” as he learned how hard it is to stay at the Big League Level. He was dressed down by Rich Hill, Dave Roberts and others and has allegedly taken it all to heart. He has imprived his nutrition and work out routines and seem determined to win a spot. UPSIDE: See Tony Gwynn. THis guy is a stone-cold hitter with a cannon on his shoulder. Don’t count him out.
- Kike Hernandez – THE Super-Utilityman who can play anywhere on the diamond and would seem the least likely to get a starting spot because of his versitility. UPSIDE: He discovers his new swing and does a Justin Turner or Chris Taylor and breaks out. He has excellent power. He kills lefties, but not so much righties. He would be an excellent platoon partner with the three lefties ahead of him.
- Trayce Thompson – Remember him? Athletic, talented and soon-to-be 27 year-old who can play all three outfield positions. He is out of options and I think the most likely scenerio is that he shows he is healthy and is traded during Spring Training. UPSIDE: 5th outfielder and good defender.
Matt Kemp once hit .324 2ith a .399 OB% and a .986 OPS to go with 39 HR and 126 RBI… oh, and he stole 40 bases. Those guys don’t grow on trees and he’s not THAT guy anymore, especially with his loss of speed, but his RH bat could play big in LF. We shall see…
Kenley Jansen has given his public endorsement of Matt Kemp (as well as endorsing a strike, but I digress). Now Justin Turner goes on the record in favor of Matt Kemp, according to Ken Gurnick:
“I love Matt and he reached out to be a few weeks ago and he worked out with us at the stadium,” said Turner. “I told him, ‘Matt, you’re a Dodger. You’re one of the guys that built this place, so come on up.’ He’s in great shape, running well and he’s serious. He wants to win and help us. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, but as of now, he’s one of our outfielders and still a big impact, right-handed bat.”
… and then there is Yu Darvish who has made it known he wants to come back to LA. That’s the prime reason to move Kemp, but it would likely mean moving Grandal and Ryu or Maeda and or Logan Forsythe to clear out the salary space. Darvish at 5 years and $100 mil with an opt-out after year 1 or 2 would be fine with me, but don’t write Grandal off. The duo of Grandal and Barnes might be the best catching tandem in the major leagues, and Grandal wants his job back. He has to earn it and he knows that! There are options and hurdles, but I think there is a decent chance Darvish comes back.
… and then there is Chase Utley. It looks like he will be back! Maybe Kike and Utley platoon at 2B if Logan makes a Run… get it? Logan’s Run? Nevermind. I’ll stop now.