Will the Real Matt Kemp please stand up?
Y’all act like you've never seen a hurt person before! For owners of Matt Kemp, this season has been a disappointment, to say the very least. A sure-fire first round pick or a $30-plus investment in auction leagues, Kemp has largely underwhelmed through the first half. His lack of production may have caused trigger-happy investors to bail early and to hastily trade him away. For roto sharks, it was the risky buy-low opportunity of a fantasy lifetime. With Kemp’s offseason shoulder surgery and early mechanical flaws with his swing, you had to predict a slow start when drafting him, right? That, coupled with a hamstring issue that caused him to miss a huge chunk of time in June, definitely tested his owners’ patience. However, for patient drafters and/or those who bought low on Kemp, the rewards may be presently unfolding, with gusto. Since returning from the DL on June 25, Kemp has had four multi-hit games, two HR, seven RBI, seven runs scored and two stolen bases. While these numbers aren't other-worldly, his two homers have come in consecutive games and on consecutive at-bats (his last AB on Wednesday and his first on Thursday). As a Kemp fan, I've noticed that both of his homers were exactly the same, pitches down in the zone which he drove over the centerfield wall. If you know anything about Matt Kemp, you know that the slugger is at his most locked-in when he’s driving the ball to center. He also added a long fly ball out to the warning track in center on Thursday. Kemp could be on the verge of erupting behind a smoking hot Hanley Ramirez and rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers should be fun to watch from here on out. All you other Matt Kemps are just imitating. So won’t the real Matt Kemp please stand up?
AL Hot Shots:
- Justin Verlander bounced back after finding something mechanically wrong with his motion. He tossed seven scoreless innings and allowed only three hits in the win over the Blue Jays.
- Josh Phegley will be called up by the White Sox prior to Friday’s game. Phegley was raking in Triple-A and could see his fair share of time with Tyler Flowers not coming up roses at the plate hitting just .208.
- Josh Hamilton hit a game-tying blast off Cardinals' closer Edward Mujica (his first blown save) Thursday. Hamilton’s power has been lacking, but he’s hitting .400 (12-for-30) over his last nine games; he could be primed for a second-half power display.
- Adam Dunn continues to demolish baseballs when he makes contact with them. The big donkey blasted a walk-off hee-haw to propel the White Sox to victory over the Orioles. It was his 23rd homer, on a day where he went 3-for-4 to push his average to .207-- the highest it’s been since April 7.
- Raul Ibanez continues to defy time and logic. Rauuuuuul is now 41 years of age and is enjoying his most productive first half of a season as a major leaguer. Ibanez had previously topped out at 34 homers with the Phillies in ’09; he's now sitting at 21 taters and we’re not yet to the All-Star break. I would love to see a push to get Raul to the All-Star game!!! This is fun to watch!
- Alex Gordon – 0, Left-field wall – 1. As we've seen numerous times this season, and as recently as Wednesday with Yasiel Puig, outfielders are getting absolutely owned by the fences this year. Bryce Harper missed more than a month due to a knee injury sustained from hitting the wall in LA. Alex Gordon whip-lashed his head into the left field wall on Thursday. He will miss the weekend but was fortunate to escape serious injury after his collision Thursday. I suggest shock collars.
- Adrian Beltre went 3-for-4 and hit a double serving of solo homers as the Rangers bested the Mariners 5-4 on Thursday. Beltre is now up to 16 HR and 44 RBI.
- Grant Balfour nailed down a 1-0 win for the A’s on Thursday and is a perfect 21-for-21 in save opportunities with a 1.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. The Raging Aussie is not just fun to watch, he’s been lights out all season.
NL Hot Shots:
- Allen Craig was 2-for-3 with his tenth homer of the season on Thursday and pushed his season RBI tally to 66, which has him second in the NL.
- Michael Cuddyer hit a double, a homer and drove in three runs to help the Rockies defeat the Dodgers, just a day after ending a 27-game hitting streak he got right back on the horse. He’s got 15 bombs now and should be an All Star.
- Adrian Gonzalez went 4-for-5 with a homer and a double Thursday. The Dodgers could use some production in July from A-Gonz after a June where he only hit three homers and drove in eight RBI.
- Marcell Ozuna had been in a bit of an offensive funk since the beginning of July, going just 1-for-13 coming into the Independence Day gala with the Braves. He certainly put the kibosh on that slump on Thursday, going 3-for-5 with a homer, an RBI single and a stolen base. His .293 average looks to have staying power, and his bat has more pop than he’s shown. This guy could be a legitimate big-league threat at the tender age of 22.
- A.J. Ramos has turned things around with 8.2 scoreless innings, three wins and eight K over his last eight appearances. If Steve Cishek were to be dealt, Ramos would have to be the guy in Miami. While I don’t believe the Fish will deal Cishek, team owner Jeffrey Loria is well-practiced in “the art of trading” away talent.
- Ike Davis will be recalled from Triple-A on Friday and will most likely be back to start. He’s been en fuego for Las Vegas with a .293/.424/.667 line and 8 HR over 21 games. We saw this same story unfold just a year ago, as Davis would hit 21 homers in the second half and end up with 90 RBI on the year. Buy now if you can!
- Travis Wood took a no-decision after striking out five and allowing zero earned runs over six innings as the A’s would eventually score their lone run on a passed ball to win 1-0. His 2.69 ERA and 0.98 WHIP are not indicative of his 5-6 record, but you can’t draft for wins. He’s been great.
- A.J. Burnett could return Sunday for the Pirates
- Carlos Gonzalez is day-to-day with a back strain. Tyler Colvin is likely to start in CF over the weekend.
- Troy Tulowitzki could potentially return BEFORE the All Star Game.
- Carl Crawford is likely to be activated Friday. With Matt Kemp back and Yasiel Puig on fire, Andre Ethier could be expendable at the deadline.
- Heath Bell blew a save. Is there an echo? No we just keep saying it. The DBacks bullpen is a hen house right now and David Hernandez should be the guy however his command has been terrible. It’s a toss up as to whom Kirk Gibson will throw out there next with J.J. Putz still not back to 100%. Maybe Josh Collmenter is the answer?
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Follow Shawn Caswell on Twitter, or don’t: @CasKnowsRoto