Throughout the week, I am asked a wide array of questions about fantasy baseball. Some are good, others make my eyes roll, and many others are incredibly simple. Every once in a while, however, I get asked a question that forces me to either dig a little deeper in an attempt to come up with a reasonable resolution or the inquiry initiates a highly spirited conversation about the sport.
This week, a lot of talk centered around Matt Kemp. Why is he so bad? Should I cut Kemp? Should I attempt to trade him? Should I buy low on Kemp? Is he hurt? Is he not juicing? Should he be juicing? Did Rihanna ruin his career? What happened to him?
What looked like a potential bounce-back candidate in 2014, the former MVP contender has continued to disappoint. Warning owners about the very likelihood of Kemp’s shortcomings in the upcoming season, I was met with much resistance. Arguments were made that Kemp would be a value pick as a mid-round pick and his upside justified an early selection. Per fantasypros.com, Kemp was going as early as the fourth round in most leagues. In my keeper league, where we keep a maximum of seven active Major Leaguers, Kemp was retained as a keeper in 2014. To put that in perspective, here are the following outfielders that were available in the draft:
- Carlos Gomez
- Hunter Pence
- Ben Zobrist
- Billy Hamilton
- Allen Craig
- Domonic Brown
- Starling Marte
- Curtis Granderson
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Austin Jackson
- Norichika Aoki
- Alex Gordon
- Leonys Martin
What do they have in common? They were all available and picked by the seventh round (virtually the 14th round in our draft) and, based on our points’ league scoring system, are having better seasons than Matt Kemp. Was Kemp’s upside worth the gamble? Perhaps, but based on the list above, owners were better off picking Kemp in a later round or not at all. Coming into the draft, I chose the latter strategy. I literally removed Kemp’s name from my cheat sheet.
A player entering his age 29 season, what did I see in Kemp that other owners did not see? Well, for starters, Kemp has always had issues with strikeouts. In his breakout, 2008 campaign, he posted a Strikeout Rate (K%) of 23.3 percent. That figure dropped in 2009, but it quickly rose up in 2010 to 25.4 percent. His best season in 2011, his K% decreased to 23.1 percent and it was matched well with a decent Walk Rate (BB%) of 10.7 percent. So he deserves kudos for that accomplishment. In the meantime, his Walk:Strikeout (BB:K) numbers were alarmingly low for a player of his caliber. Matt Kemp owns a career BB:K of .34. In 2014, that puts him in Chris Carter territory. Many will point out that Paul Goldschmidt has similar walk and strikeout figures to Kemp this season. The difference is that Goldschmidt has a history of knowing how to take walks and is not the free-swinger that Kemp is. Plus Kemp has a very low Contact Rate, placing him 150th among 168 qualified hitters in that stat.
Plus the slew of injuries that Kemp has suffered along with playing style and playing in centerfield might have accelerated his age in baseball years. There is some hope in Kemp’s bat as he does possess a Line Drive Rate (LD%) of 25.2 percent and still has some pop. But he is becoming a ground ball hitter and already has a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play–percentage of batted balls that go for hits) of .315 this season. That figure is well below his .350 BABIP, but it should still be good enough to aid Kemp’s batting average–but it’s not. Kemp’s hitting .245. He’s also on pace to hit 13 home runs and steal the same number of bases, well below his 2014 projections.
So in essence, owners fell in love with the notion of having a big name like Kemp on their squads. They fell in love with the potential of owning a high end brand, but instead they got a version that is more inferior than past releases. Worst of all, owners cannot ask for refunds at this point of the season.
All stats courtesy of fangraphs.com and are good through June 7, 2014.