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Projecting Matt Kemp

It looks like Matt Kemp is on the block again.

It's not unusual for Ned Colletti to go with the seasoned veteran over the youngster despite the fact both projections and talent alone may favor the younger player, which makes this rumor that much more believable.

Kemp is a very valuable baseball player.  He just turned 23 years of age, he's having a very good season at the major league level, he owns a .310/.358/.518 career MiLB line, he's generally regarded as a very good athlete, and he's years away from testing the free agency market.

Despite all these facts, rumors involving his name are circulating and this isn't the first instance.

On the season Kemp's hitting .331/.364/.509 with 10 home runs in 294 PA's.  Despite the small sample size of plate appearances, his VORP of 19.2 runs is higher than that of Andre Ethier (15.3), Juan Pierre (14.3) and Luis Gonzalez (15.1); Los Angeles' trio of starting outfielders.

MLBTradeRumors thinks the Dodgers could shop Kemp for a veteran third basemen or outfielder, but is it even worth it?  Better yet, how does Kemp project as a full time major league player?  For that, we'll turn to PECOTA.

The Projection

Here is Kemp's PECOTA five-year projection.  Note that the replacement level statistics are coming from the centerfield position.

An All-Star in the making?  Quite possible.

PECOTA projected a full seasons worth of PA's from Kemp and while he isn't going to rack up 600 or more of those on the season, his rate stats have been better than PECOTA projected.  Kemp's batting average has held up quite well on the season thanks to a .403 BABIP, but the power is there.

Kemp is projected as a solid five-win per season player over the next four years and PECOTA's MORP system values his full projection (including his projected 2007 season) at $70M+.  We already know he's not going to make anywhere near that much cash so he's certainly not someone you should be looking to deal.

Does this All-Star caliber projection include an All-Star list of top comparable players?  

The List of Similar Players

Here are Kemp's top ten comparable players courtesy of PECOTA:

Juan Encarnacion:

Probably not the guy you expected to appear as Kemp's #1 comp.  Encarnacion hasn't had an All-Star caliber career topping the 100 OPS+ mark only twice in seasons with at least 500 AB's.  His peak WARP3 mark is 5.0 wins.

Michael Coleman:

Never heard of Coleman?  I don't blame you.  A career minor leaguer, Coleman took 67 AB's in the show hitting .194/.203/.254.  Something tells me Kemp is in for better things.

Dee Brown:

No, not the former Illinois Basketball Player, Brown has seen seven stints in the major leagues; six of them with the Royals.  He's a career .233/.280/.333 hitter in 814 AB's.  Certainly not the most attractive looking top three comps.

Sammy Sosa:

That's better.  Sosa was arguably the most feared hitter in the game during the latter part of the nineties hitting 60 or more home runs in 1998, 1999 and 2001.  Sosa is currently fifth on the all-time home run list and despite aging terribly into his mid-thirties he's still a career .273/.344/.534 hitter.  Note that Sosa's peak years came in his early thirties.  

Ruben Mateo:

Another guy that just never made it as a full-time player.  Mateo spent six years in the majors with four different clubs racking up a total of 876 AB's during his career.  He was a career .250/.303/.386 hitter.

Vernon Wells:

Wells' has had a bit of an up and down career.  His age 24 and 27 seasons were excellent (WARP3's of 9.0 and 8.1 respectively) whereas his 25 and 26 seasons were a bit disappointing given expectations (WARP3's of 5.8 and 6.7).  He signed a seven-year extension with the Blue Jays last winter only to hit .245/.304/.402 this season in 584 AB's.  Shoulder surgery had ended his year.

Orlando Cepeda:

Cepeda had a solid, but bumpy major league career.  His peak years came during his age 21 through 26 seasons in which he posted a combined WARP3 of 47.4 wins.  Despite tailing off a bit at the end of his career, Cepeda was a career .301 EqA hitter.

Larry Hisle:

Hisle had a handful of seasons in which he was an everyday player; his peak years coming during his age 29 through 31 seasons in which he accumulated a total of 21.4 wins above the replacement level player.  A career .273/.347/.452 hitter, Hisle accumulated 500+ AB's in a season only 5 times throughout his 14 year career.

Corey Hart:

Hart's currently enjoying his first full major league season after a strong MiLB career in which he hit .299/.357/.498.  The 25-year old is currently having a very nice year with Milwaukee hitting .292/.350/.524 with 22 homers in 490 AB's.  His WARP3 is 7.8 wins.

Alex Escobar:

A classic example of a top prospect that just never made it.  Escobar looked like a star in the making when he hit .310/.393/.584 for the Columbia Bombers as a 19-year old in the Sally League, but his major league career just hasn't materialized.  Escobar has seen major league time with three different ballclubs hitting .258/.328/.415 in 388 career AB's.

Other notable top comps include Carlos Beltran and Frank Robinson.

As a whole you see some good and you see some not so good.  Guys like Sosa, Wells, Cepeda and even Hart give hope that Kemp has the chance to become a solid major league producer, whereas guys like Coleman, Brown and Mateo let you know anything, even the not so good, is possible for the future.

Final Thoughts

I don't want to get too ahead of myself when it comes to advocating Kemp as a future All-Star lock.  The talent is certainly there, but work needs to be done.  His patience at the plate is sketchy at times and as I mentioned earlier, the .403 BABIP isn't going to hold up over an entire season.

You just can't ignore that projection however.  The ability for Kemp to turn his talents into results is going to take plenty of work on his part and on the part of the Dodgers coaching staff, but PECOTA thinks things are going to work out.

Dodger fans know Ned Colletti isn't afraid to deal a young gun.  Colletti has already dealt Joel Guzman, Sergio Pedroza, Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson during his tenure with the Dodgers and while none these players are current major league stars, they were one time top prospects like Kemp.

As a PECOTA fan, I undoubtedly believe it's in the best interest of the Dodgers to keep Kemp and give him a full-time job in the major leagues; that projection is simply awesome.

Given Colletti's past however, a deal including Kemp would not surprise me.