Looking Deeper into Fantasy Expectations of Matt Kemp


Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Do you know what I did first thing this morning? I checked out who was available in my fantasy league and saw the name of Jeff Francoeur. Naturally I pounced. I’m really expecting him to be a big time contributor to a championship fantasy baseball team this year.

You probably think that:

  • A) I’m an idiot
  • B) I’m making a bad April Fools’ joke.
  • C) Both

If you guessed B, you win today’s prize, though you may generally think that C applies as well.

But it’s not just a bad April Fools’ joke. I wanted to make a bit of a point. Frenchy was a pretty good fantasy contributor in 2011, producing above average statistics in all of the standard fantasy categories except runs, where he was right around average.

[table id=528 /]

So here’s the question. If I’d be an idiot to sign Francoeur looking for a repeat of 2011, why is it copacetic for people to do that with Matt Kemp?

I can already feel the hate from the Dodgers fans. “You stupid Giants fan! Matt Kemp is 50 times the player that Jeff Francoeur is.”

No doubt about that and actually, I don’t dislike Matt Kemp at all. The point is that whether we’re talking about fantasy baseball or real baseball, putting high hopes on someone based on something they did three years ago is definitely foolish.

On average, Kemp’s been drafted in the 72nd spot of ESPN leagues in 2014. That’s somewhere between a 6th and 7th round draft pick, depending on the size of your league. That’s an awfully big risk for someone who plays a demanding position, has been hurt throughout Spring Training, and hasn’t been consistently healthy since that 2011 season.

Kemp has other concerns, too.

  • Dodgers outfield

The Dodgers are a National League team, so they don’t use the DH. They also have a star first baseman in Adrian Gonzalez, so there’s no natural place to put an odd-man out on the field.

That leaves Kemp in the outfield with Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier. Neither exactly fits the definition of a standard fourth outfielder and other than Puig, their contracts are nearly impossible to trade. What does that mean?

There’s going to be an odd-man out every game. Even if Kemp comes back relatively healthy and plays well, he’s going to get a lot of days off for the Dodgers.

It’s a good problem for Don Mattingly to have as if everything goes to plan, the Los Angeles Dodgers are, talented team  that will be well rested all year. That’s a very good recipe to compete for or even win a World Series.

But for fantasy owners of any of those guys (with the possible exception of Puig), it’s rough.

  • Career Other than 2011

In case you’re forgetting, this is what Kemp did in 2011. [table id=529 /]

How much has that season impacted his career? Well, if we remove 2011’s numbers, this is what we’d get, on average.

[table id=530 /]

Now, if you get 600 or more plate appearances at that rate, great. But the injury concerns and the fact that Los Angeles has a deep outfield aren’t exactly breaking news, are they? Realistically, anyone drafting Kemp shouldn’t be expecting anything outside of the 450-500 plate appearance range. You can certainly survive if you get that kind of production from a 6th or 7th rounder, but Kemp definitely loses some appeal there.

  • Career Since 2011

If I’m saying that people stuck on 2011 are living in the past, certainly I’m doing the same by citing stats from 2006-2010, right? Fair enough. But since 2011, Kemp’s per plate appearance splits have been similar.

[table id=531 /]

But remember, that considers a monster start from Kemp in 2012. Since his great April in 2012, his numbers look a lot more ordinary.

[table id=532 /]

Yes, he’s been banged up and some of those numbers were certainly hindered by that. But are we really expecting that Kemp won’t suffer through any injuries this season? He’s not even eligible to be activated from the DL for three days and is recovering from shoulder and foot injuries. Again, 450-500 plate appearances seems about right.

Mind you, this isn’t to say that Matt Kemp will offer zero fantasy value. The Jeff Francoeur example was certainly an exaggeration. But it does highlight how long ago 2011 was in sports terms. In many ways, sports years are like dog years. What happened three years ago holds little to no relevance now. If you’re using the past as a predictor, you have to use the most recent past possible. When we do that, Kemp can absolutely be a viable fantasy player, but the chances of him performing at the level of a 6th-7th round pick are not great.

The relevant question is this. If you have Matt Kemp on your roster, what should you do with him? We look at that in Part 2.