It was not long ago that Matt Kemp was considered one of the best players in all of baseball. Since finishing second in the NL MVP voting in 2011, Kemp has battled injuries and struggled to resemble the player he once was.
Hamstring, shoulder, and ankle ailments kept Kemp out of the lineup and limited his play when he was on the field. Kemp began the season much like he did the past two, struggling. A noticeably slower burst in the center field and fielding issues resulted in manager Don Mattingly benching Kemp and moving him to left.
After spending some time in left field, Kemp eventually settled in right fild where we finished the season strong. Kemp’s bat came alive with the help of a new stance down the stretch for the Dodgers as his .322 batting average, nine home runs, and 25 RBIs in September earned him NL Player of the Month.
Kemp rode his late-season momentum into the playoffs and was responsible for the lone Dodger win in the NLDS. After dropping Game 1, the Dodgers desperately needed to tie up the series before heading to St. Louis.
Two runs in the third inning gave the Dodgers an early lead, which they held until the eighth. The Cardinals tied the game with a two-run Matt Carpenter home run to set the stage up for Kemp.
The Cardinals then sent sidearmer Pat Neshek to the mound to face the Dodgers in the bottom of the eighth. Kemp led things off for the Dodgers and quickly put the team on his back with a solo home run to left field that snuck inside the foul pole.
Kenley Jansen closed the game out in what otherwise wound up being a disappointing NLDS for the Dodgers.
As was the case all season, the Dodgers enter the winter with a crowded outfield. The newly formed front office will have to explore what options they have in working out the logjam.
It is widely presumed the Dodgers will look to unload either Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier’s contracts. While Kemp had a bit of a resurgence that may have increased his trade value, he is still owed $107 million over the next five years.
There is plenty of optimism for Kemp entering 2015 especially considering the way he finished 2014 and he entered the offseason injury-free. His speed may not be anywhere near where it used to be, but Kemp has regained the power that eluded him while he worked his way back from a shoulder issue.
However, it’s certainly also worth mentioning it was reported on Nov. 9 Kemp was one of three Dodger outfielders being shopped.