Flash Forward: Why the Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kemp Will Be the 2010 NL MVP
The National League MVP will be announced this week, and it will undoubtedly be handed to Albert Pujols.
With this year's race all but locked up, I wanted to take a look at a player who I consider to be the front-runner for MVP in 2010.
At 25 years old, Matt Kemp has already put up impressive numbers that rank up there with some of the elite names in baseball history.
He is just one of 17 outfielders in the integration era—a list that includes Willie Mays, Darryl Strawberry, and Grady Sizemore—to to hit more than 60 home runs, steal more than 80 bases, and compile over 200 RBI by the age of 25.
In 2009, Kemp emerged as a versatile offensive weapon for the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Batting in nearly every spot in the order, Kemp excelled wherever he was placed and took home his first career Silver Slugger trophy.
Kemp batted .297, maintaining a .300 average throughout the majority of the season, and set career highs in home runs (26) and RBI (101).
Combined with his 34 stolen bases, Kemp displays the power and speed combination that it takes to become the next member of the 40/40 club.
In addition to his dynamic attributes at the plate, Kemp also won a Gold Glove for the manner in which he grazes centerfield, earning him the nickname of "The Bison" from his teammates.
This five-tool approach to the game is why Matt Kemp will win the 2010 NL MVP.
A prime example of Kemp's impact in both the field and at the plate occurred on July 10 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Kemp went 3-for-5 on the night and blasted a game-winning grand slam in the top of the 10th inning, but it was the style in which he did it that was so captivating.
Batting eighth in the order, Kemp timed an offering from Carlos Villanueva perfectly and put a ball into orbit, launching a grand slam high above the left-center field wall and pushing the Dodgers in front 10-6.
In the bottom of the frame, Dodgers' closer Jonathan Broxton allowed two runs to cross the dish, and faced Jason Kendall with runners on the corners and two outs.
Kendall drilled a high fly ball to deep centerfield, and with Kemp playing shallow to prevent a bloop from falling, he had a an eternity to go in order to corral this drive.
But Kemp, at 6-foot-2 230 lbs., made an over-the-shoulder snag just before hitting the wall to end the game and kill the Brewers' rally, securing a wild 12-8 win for the Boys in Blue.
This is just one example of the many highlight reel plays he makes on a near daily basis in the field and at the plate.
At this juncture in his career, we can project Kemp's career going one of two ways.
Considering his propensity to strikeout, he could become the next Preston Wilson.
Wilson hit 31 home runs, drove in 121 runs, and stole 36 bases when he was 25-years old, but he also struck out 187 times while drawing only 55 walks that season.
In 2009, Kemp fanned 139 times and walked 52 times.
We saw the youngster struggle in the NLDS, going 1-for-13 after a first pitch home run in Game One. Kemp fell victim to an off-speed attack from Cardinals' pitchers and was never able to square-up a ball following his early home run.
The good news for Dodger fans is that Kemp seems to be going in the right direction, as indicated by his subtle improvements from 2008, when he struck out 153 times and walked 46 times.
And that was in 10 fewer plate appearances than 2009.
On the other hand, Kemp could continue his growth and become one of the biggest threats in the senior circuit, wearing out pitchers with bat, catchers with his legs, and hitters with his glove.
Only time will tell, but with the skill set Kemp possesses and the trajectory his career is on at this point, I'm predicting that he takes home the 2010 NL MVP.
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