The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
Will Matt Kemp ever run again?
Well, he’ll run. He ran the other day when he played outfield in an intra-squad game. But if you’re asking if he’ll run well during a Major League game ever again? He will. At what level, I’m not sure.
Matt Kemp is part of an outfield quagmire that we’ve covered a couple times on 20 Days of Thinking Blue. He’s the biggest reason why Andre Ethier isn’t on the trade market and why Joc Pederson is just one injury away from being called up to the big show. It’s a situation largely of Kemp’s own doing, as a shoulder injury (from running into a fence in Colorado) and severe ankle sprain (from a lazy slide into home plate in Washington) have left him a shell of the MVP-caliber player he once was.
The problem isn’t recovering from those injuries, as hard as it is to believe. He’s still just 29 years old, and given enough time, should heal up from several surgeries. The problem is that he nature of his skill set is going to be severely compromised from the nature of his injuries.
Kemp’s game has always been predicated on his otherworldly athleticism and monstrous swing. Without the proper burst and range of motion from his ankle, his already shaky defensive prowess (mostly due to poor instincts rather than any particular physical flaw) and base stealing ability could suffer greatly. Now he’s just a guy who makes bad decisions in the field and on the basepaths without the athleticism to excuse his miscues. In terms of his swing, Kemp’s wide open, high-powered swat often made up for his high strikeout rate and sometimes harmful lack of patience. If his shoulder doesn’t heal to the point where that swing is as crisp and quick as it used to be, I’m afraid that Matty won’t be the same hitter he was either.
Reports are that Kemp is just starting to begin on-field workouts simulating in-game speed. He didn’t make it to “Opening Day” in Australia and has been placed on the DL, making him ineligible until at least April 4th. Even with that return date, Kemp might not be ready to roll until some point in the next month or two, but really needs to take his time and get healthy. The Dodgers currently have enough players to more than stay afloat with his absence, but the squad is exponentially better with the outfielder healthy and in the middle of the lineup.
The question here was simply about if Kemp will ever run again. Yes, he’ll run again. But the level at which he’s able to sprint will be reflective on the type of all-around player he can be. He’s almost become a nine-figure afterthought on the Dodgers, who may still have a great, all-world offense without him. It’s nice to know that the Dodgers aren’t made or broken without his services, but if he were to return at full healthy, LA will have one of the most unstoppable scoring attacks in the league. I truly believe that his power will return, but his days as a super athlete wonderkind are most likely behind him.