Evaluating a player’s performance as the season draws to a close is always interesting. I am not afraid to admit that I was very worried about Matt Kemp entering 2014 and owned zero shares of him this season. The risk/reward factor that was attached to taking him seemed a bit too steep, similar to Ryan Braun. After a sluggish first half, Kemp is gaining momentum not only for the Dodgers in the throes of a pennant race, but also for hardcore fantasy owners who are still paying attention.
Entering the 2014 season, Kemp was on average the 44th player selected in live drafts according to Fantasy Pros cumulative statistics and was taken at pick 55.6. On ESPN’s player rater today, Matt Kemp oddly enough ranks 44th overall with four games remaining in the regular season. Even though Kemp has been an MVP candidate, he seemed to be valued almost dead on by drafters this year. With an eye on the future, it is going to be interesting not only to see where he goes in early drafts for 2015, but how his projection for next year will be.
First, here is how his season looks so far:
Matt Kemp 2014: 148 G, 75 R, 24 HR, 86 RBI, 8 SB, 284/343/498
If I took his name off of here and put say, Yoenis Cespedes, the only surprise would be the batting average. This is a solid season but not one that would make owners reach in drafts for the next season. But this is Matt Kemp and his name still means something in fantasy. If you are still paying attention to baseball, you would realize that his first and second half splits tell an interesting story:
Matt Kemp 1H: 86 G, 38 R, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 5 SB, 269/330/430
Matt Kemp 2H: 62 G, 37 R, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 3 SB, 303/360/589
What really catches my eye is the difference in production between the first and second halves. Not only is there is a jump in Kemp’s slugging percentage, but more importantly in his OBP, home runs and RBI. Being realistic, it is hard to imagine Kemp ever stealing more than twenty bases in a season again. Since his career year in 2011 with 40 steals, he has not played over 140 games until this year and the stolen bases seem to be the one area he is declining. However, if his power numbers continue to surge with health, I think this is a tradeoff that fantasy owners will palate due to the dearth of power in baseball across the board. As important as the splits above are, can they be sustained?
Kemp’s 1H: ISO – .161, BABIP – .349, wRC+ – 117, wOBA – .336
Kemp’s 2H: ISO – .286, BABIP – .335, wRC+ – 164, wOBA – .404
Kemp’s Career: ISO – .203, BABIP – .351, wRC+ – 127, wOBA – .361
Here is where things get a bit more interesting. It appears that Kemp could even improve a bit in his average for 2015 with his BABIP being a bit under his career numbers; not that .284 is a number to be disappointed in. What I want to see is how his jump in ISO (isolated power) over the second half can be projected for next year. Less running should keep Kemp healthier and allow him to blossom as a power hitter moving forward. It will be hard to determine if the second half is an outlier or a sneak preview of things to come as Kemp evolves as a player. For perspective, Kemp’s HR/FB % in 2014 is 19.4, while his career number is 16.5%. He’s reached as high as 21.4% and 21.7% in 2010 and 2011 respectively, however. Knowing he was not healthy the past season and a half may make Kemp a player that can be bought at a reasonable price in 2015. That is the rub. Where will Kemp be valued for next year? If he is being taken in the third round then he will provide great value like Giancarlo Stanton this year, but if Kemp makes his way into the early second round, then some of that value is mitigated.
After some great Twitter debate last night, I am comfortable projecting Kemp for between 32-35 home runs next year with 10-12 stolen bases. You cannot always get great value but if Kemp can maintain the power gains that he has shown in a healthy second half for next year, there may be a different MVP debate in 2015 between Kemp and Stanton instead of a pitcher. That would be nice. As I said in a tweet, I am more confident investing in Kemp 2K15 than I was Braun 2K14.
Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/SiGjS5
Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!
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