Los Angeles Dodgers: What Can LA Expect from Matt Kemp Upon Return?

Robert PaceContributor IIIAugust 8, 2013

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 08:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers watches from the dugout during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 8, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks 6-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Although the Dodgers have gained momentum in a crucial stretch of the season, one of the issues in the background of the Blue Crew's 2013 season has been the underperformance of Matt Kemp.

The Blue Crew's star center fielder hasn't regained his form since undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason and has landed himself on the disabled list on three separate occasions (hamstring, shoulder, ankle).

In total, the 2011 National League MVP runner-up has played in slightly more than half of the Dodgers' 113 games this season.

While his inferior performance and poor physical health have become side notes to the Dodgers' recent success, the team is still expecting Kemp to come back healthy and have an impact by season's end.

Though his physical return to the diamond is likely, which Matt Kemp should the Dodgers expectthe MVP runner-up or the Kemp we've seen in 2013?

In short, neither.

Kemp told reporters in St. Louis on Wednesday that he expects to return to the field within two weeks, assuring that his DL stint wouldn't last as long as September as was rumored shortly after he injured his ankle in his first game returning from a shoulder injury on July 21.

The 28-year-old slugger even took batting practice before the Dodgers walloped the Cardinals, 13-4, on Wednesday.

"[It's] a start, it's better than where I was," Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times quotes Kemp. "Felt good to get back out there and hit a little bit. Felt like a real baseball player."

Assuming Kemp's prediction is correct, he'll likely have a month-and-a-half of baseball, somewhere around 40 games, to play when he returns from injury.

That may seem like enough time to get back up to speed, but given a grace period and judging by the length of Kemp's previous acclimations from the DL,  it's bound to take half of those games just to get him from feeling like a "real baseball player" to the real Matt Kemp.

And yet, Kemp's recent numbers, be they an inaccurate barometer of what to expect from him after returning from the DL, are very encouraging.

In the five games in which he played in July, Kemp hit three of his five home runs on the season, knocked in eight runs and maintained a batting average of .368 and an on-base percentage of .429.

More impressively, Kemp had his best hitting performance of the season (3-for-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI) in the game in which he returned from his shoulder injury, his most recent game.

Furthermore, although Kemp's ankle injury has removed him from the playing field, it's given him time to further rest his shoulder and clear his head from his early-season struggles at the plate as well.

So, is this to suggest that Kemp will make up for lost time and have the best stretch of games in his career when he returns from the DL?

Not in the slightest.

He won't be his former MVP candidate self, nor the pitiful player we've seen so far this season.

He'll be an above-average player. Not amazing, not deplorable, but he'll do the job.