The multi-skilled Matt Kemp remains the key Dodger. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
No, didn’t forget him. The 2012 team recaps conclude with this one on the Dodgers’ best overall player.
MATT KEMP, 28, outfielder
Final 2012 stats: .303 batting average, 23 homers, 69 RBIs, 74 runs scored, nine stolen bases, .367 on-base and .538 slugging percentages in 403 at-bats.
Contract status: Beginning the first of an eight-year, $160-million deal.
The good: Led the team in home runs, slugging percentage and batting average, and was second in RBI and runs. Had an absolutely torrid start, hitting .417 with 12 home runs and 25s RBI in April. Charged with only one error all season.
The bad: Hobbled by hamstring and then shoulder injuries, hit .278 after April, adding only 11 more home runs. The shoulder injury required off-season surgery for a torn labrum.
He initially came back too soon from the hamstring injury, returning immediately after the minimum 15-day stay on the disabled list, and within two games had aggravated it and was back on the DL.
What’s next: At this point, he simply hopes for health. If he is healthy, he may well more closely approach his 2011 season, when he finished second for the National League MVP.
The take: It takes a while to build up strength and flexibility after shoulder surgery, and Kemp has already stated he’s aiming for the start of the season and not spring training to be full strength. The Dodgers figure to ease him back into full playing condition. And with the hamstring injury, he may never again be the base-stealing threat he once was. Certainly, talk of 50 steals should be put to rest.
Ideally, though, if he returns to full form, his numbers would at least be a threat to match his breakout season from two years ago. This time he will be protected in the lineup by superior hitters — Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford — and not just part of a two-man power duo with Andre Ethier.
In April he was the best player in baseball. After returning the second time from his hamstring injury, he was hitting .324 and starting to get back to form when he crashed into the center field wall in Colorado. At first the Dodgers talked about his sore knee and jaw, but then the problem with the shoulder emerged, and it would never really go away the rest of the season.
Despite the impressive additions to the lineup, the multi-skilled Kemp remains the key Dodger, if not their most popular player, and he should just be entering his prime. Now he just has to learn how to use the warning track.
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