Matt Kemp's Comeback
Many intelligent people might contend that this tweet from the Dodgers was just organizational talk to create hype around a player in whom they are heavily invested in. Matt Kemp has let down their fans mightily over the last two seasons, but the team took L.A. by storm last summer. The Dodgers front office is trying to build off of that by creating a buzz around this star-studded team that has championship aspirations, and Kemp is still their most recognizable face. But when you dig deeper and listen to what the baseball people around the Dodgers are saying, you start to believe that the Matt Kemp of old will be back sooner rather than later. His manager, who gains nothing out of "promoting" a Kemp return, has said the All Star is headed in the right direction. The ever-stoic Don Mattingly does not often go out of his way to get too excited about very much, so his stating Kemp is on his way means he's on his way.
Recovering From Injuries
Kemp's hitting coach Mark McGwire could often be heard in 2013 saying that Kemp was still feeling the effects of his offseason shoulder surgery, explaining that he was having a hard time getting through the baseball. He would also point out that Kemp's finish was much lower than in years past, causing him to roll over or hook balls that he normally drove into the gap. The lower finish due to the not-fully-recovered shoulder was causing Kemp to create a lot of topspin-- think of Gary Sheffield, but without the triple-digit bat speed-- as opposed to the normal Kemp who drives balls out gap to gap, often to right-center field. After McGwire spent a week with Kemp in late January, he told the MLB Network that Kemp's shoulder was back to full strength, and that the recovery was over-- he was getting the extension necessary to create his trademark backspin.
OK, so according to those around him, Kemp's swing is back, but that doesn't address his offseason ankle surgery, the main focus of his rehabilitation. He was cleared for light running and was seen participating in warm up routines early in spring training, and progressed well enough to get some game action. He played in a game against his teammates as a DH last week, and has since played in a minor league game. He got in a couple innings in centerfield this week, and is slated to see action in a big league game next week. He has been declared to be on step 6 of 7 in the rehab process. It is good news that his latest MRI showed no setbacks and that he was cleared to move up a step in the rehab process, but his wish to play in Australia to open the season has been deemed just that-- wishful thinking, as he will not make the trip with his teammates. He could be ready for the opener in the States, but this is much bigger than just a series or two.
2014 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper
Of course, we want 162 games out of our hitters in fantasy baseball, but at the price tag that Kemp currently carries (32nd overall), he becomes an absolute steal if he gets back to his pre-injury numbers of 2011 when he was second in the NL in MVP voting. 150 games of .320, 35 HR, 25 SB, 105 RBI is exactly what you can expect if you, like me, believe that this is the year Kemp is back to being Kemp. While the threat of a trade seems to always surround him, in the end the Dodgers know that he is their best offensive player. Couple that with the Dodgers not having any holes to fill when it comes to pitching, there is no reason for the Dodgers to move Kemp-- not when they have some injury-plagued players in the outfield as it is (Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford seem to always run into hamstring issues). Don't fret over Kemp leaving such a great lineup for his run production-- he's the Dodgers' guy, and they have waited this long for him to get back to where he was. This time, they've surrounded him with a phenomenal group of teammates to take the pressure off, so look for Kemp to lead these Dodgers to the promised land in 2014.