Fantasy Baseball: Can Matt Kemp Be a Valuable Mid-Round Pick in 2017?
Ever since his near-MVP performance in 2011, the perception of Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp is that he has been an overpaid underachiever. And if you look at his yearly Wins Above Replacement (WAR) figures, you'd probably be right.
But in the world of fantasy baseball, Kemp has always been pretty darn good.
Six years ago, Kemp was an 8-win player and finished second in NL MVP voting thanks to a season in which he hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs and 40 stolen bases. He registered a league-leading OPS+ of 172 that year, and defensively, was a slightly below average but competent center fielder.
He was a base-stealin', dinger-hittin' stud who didn't destroy your life with his glove.
He was also a 26-year-old stud who was just entering his prime. But that prime was submarined by injuries and the complete erosion of his ability to play the field or steal bags. His fWAR dropped to 3.2 in 2012 and did not reach 1.5 in any of the four proceeding seasons.
Fantasy Isn't Always Reality
From a real-world baseball standpoint, Kemp hasn't been a very good baseball player, thanks mainly to his atrocious defense. But from a fantasy perspective, he has never stopped doing a lot of the things that can be very valuable in a mid-round selection.
Kemp, who was traded by the San Diego Padres to Atlanta last season, caught fire once joining the Braves. In 56 games (241 plate appearances) he hit .280/.336/.519 with 12 homers, 15 doubles, and an OPS+ of 126. As a whole, he put up a 112 OPS+ last season with 35 bombs, 108 RBI, and 39 doubles. He posted a cumulative slash line of .268/.304/.499 with an OPS of .803.
Numbers Are Numbers
Yes, his WAR was down. We all know he can't run or play the field anymore. But if you're in a 5x5 roto league, all you want are the numbers. And Kemp has consistently delivered the numbers every single season.
His 35 dingers were the most since 2011, as were his 108 RBI. And while 2012 and '13 were injury-marred seasons, he's been reliable over the last three years, playing at least 150 games in each. He's not going to win a batting title, but his average is not anywhere close to being an albatross, and he has never posted an OPS+ below 100, which is considered league average.
Every year, Kemp is an above-average run producer, and that means a lot in fantasy. He's also reportedly arrived in Spring Training in the BSOHL (Best Shape Of His Life).
Worth the Investment?
The Braves told Kemp they wanted him to shed a few pounds last offseason, and he has done so. He's reportedly bulked up in other areas, was in camp early to work on his outfield agility and is routinely hitting bombs during batting practice.
“He looks great,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “The first time I saw him I said, you look like you did when you played center field for the Dodgers, from what I remember. He’s in great shape. That’s really good. He’s a big man. And we saw what he can do for a club, what he did for us. That (improved condition) is very encouraging.”
Those things are all nice, and if they were talking about a poor offensive performer who was trying to resurrect his career, you could roll your eyes. But Kemp has been a valuable fantasy player the last few seasons, and the reports this spring are nothing but good.
According to FantasyPros, Kemp is currently the 27th outfielder being taken in season-long drafts and is going 94th overall. In a 12-team league, that's about the middle of the 8th round, which is not a bad spot for a potential 30-homer, 100-RBI outfielder. He's not going to give you a whole lot else, but those are still valuable things to have.
So, yes, Kemp is not going to be an MVP candidate, he's not going to challenge Jonathan Villar for the stolen base crown, and he's probably going to cost Atlanta some runs with his defense. But in the fantasy world, he's a valuable player who you should not think twice about grabbing somewhere between the 7th and 9th round.