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Kemp will rejoin Kershaw as the faces of the Dodgers organization.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw recently surpassed Kemp as the Dodgers' highest paid player (in terms of total contract value). But by the end of the 2014 season Kemp will reemerge as the co-face of the franchise and the best position player in Los Angeles.
Given Ramirez’s career revival, Puig’s youth and Adrian Gonzalez’s consistency, Kemp’s return to alpha dog status may seem unlikely. But I think people are forgetting just how good a healthy Kemp is.
Ramirez is arguably Kemp’s equal at the plate, and injuries have likely sapped both players of their former 40-plus stolen base potential. However, Ramirez’s defense, at it’s best, is inferior to Kemp’s play in the outfield.
Ramirez has often been a liability in the field while Kemp won his second Gold Glove award in 2011 before injuries began to take control of his career.
Puig is an equal, if not superior, physical talent to both Kemp and Ramirez. But Puig regressed considerably once the league started to figure him out, and we’ve yet to see how he will adjust entering his sophomore campaign.
You can pencil Gonzalez in for a .300 batting average, 20-plus home runs, 100 RBI and Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. But he was never a threat on the base paths and he’s refused to adjust his swing to produce more power after also undergoing left shoulder surgery in 2010.
A healthy Kemp is still better than his three teammates, even if he’s no longer a threat to join the exclusive 40/40 club.
So what about Kershaw and right-handed starter Zack Greinke? Count me among those who believe that position players are more valuable than pitchers.
If Kemp returns to being even 90 percent of the player he was in 2011, he’ll return to being the Dodgers’ best player and among the best in all of Major League Baseball.