Scouting Notebook: Matt Kemp is on the right track
If we were privy to the notebooks of National League advance scouts, we would find an ordered list for player acquisition from each team. When the page turns to the Dodgers, here’s why we would find the 2011 version of Matt Kemp at the top of the preference list, where a pro scouting summary right now would probably read something like this:
Making it look easy. Plus, plus right-handed power, loose and easy explosiveness, quiet body, finally trusts hands. Loose and easy athletic actions, body looks better than it has in years, premium CF defender, better reads and routes, closing gaps, arm works easy, throws with carry and accuracy. Good first step, even better underway, gazelle-like runner, base-stealing threat at any time. Playing with a chip on his shoulder -– playing with something to prove.
Kemp’s hot start continued Sunday with his two-run, game-winning home run in the ninth inning against Cardinals reliever Ryan Franklin. His numbers speak for themselves, but the signs that Kemp was on the verge of reestablishing himself were evident on opening day, when Kemp looked lean, loose, athletic and explosive.
Everything about Kemp looks easier right now –- scouts call this a “whippy” body –- and it’s the difference between a muscle-bound slugger, a bad-body behemoth, and what Kemp looks like right now –- a five-tool dominant major leaguer.
“He left one a little bit over the middle of the plate and I just kept my hands still,” Kemp said, describing what scouts mean when they talk about hitters "trusting their hands" and letting pitches travel deep into the strike zone. “[Franklin’s] got a really good sinker and a really good curveball and a cutter, so he moves the ball a lot. You’ve got to try to get a pitch in the middle and use your hands, and that’s what I did.”
Scouts who have followed Kemp over the years have no doubt picked up on what fans have –- Kemp is playing with an increased fervor, awareness, confidence and aggressiveness. A realist might say he’s playing for the contract –- he is signed through 2011 and will become arbitration-eligible in 2012. A cynic might suggest he is playing to get out of L.A. One thing is for certain -– the Dodgers will have to spend more to keep Kemp than they used to spend on security.
-- John Klima
John Klima is a product of the Major League Baseball Scout Development Program and the founder of www.baseballbeginnings.com. Catch his scouting take every Monday on latimes.com.
Photo: Matt Kemp. Credit: Harry How/Getty Images.