It was a tale of two seasons for Matt Kemp in 2016. The San Diego version hit a surprising number of home runs, but an abysmal May (.186/.189/.333) hurt his overall numbers. He went into the break with a .254/.275/.448 line and two weeks later was sent packing to Atlanta. The move east saw him improve his approach at the plate and hit .287/.339/.567 for the rest of the season. The running game is completely gone, as he only attempted one steal all season. He also has this odd Saberhagen-metrics thing going on where he has a strong slugging season followed by a very weak one, dating back to 2012. He remains a free-swinging player who doesn't walk much, strikes out quite a bit, but hits for a lot of pop in even years. Despite the fact that this is an odd year, most projection systems will still peg him as a solid bet for 25 homers and decent contributions in runs and RBI.
Kemp went 2-for-2 with an RBI in Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. He's had a quiet spring so far, slashing .233/.378/.300 through 30 at-bats, but after an 0-for-12 start all seven of Kemp's hits have come in his last seven games. The 32-year-old slugger is rounding into form with plenty of time left before Opening Day.
Kemp lost almost 30 pounds during the offseason, Bleacher Report's Scott Miller reports. Here's another "Best Shape Of My Life" story with some history: He battled issues with his physique on and off, most memorably in his days with the Dodgers, who traded him partially because of them. A trimmer Kemp hopes to continue the revival he enjoyed last year, including his 35 homers that marked his highest total since his historic 2011 season. Perhaps he'll attempt to steal more bases, as well, which would further bolster his fantasy value as a top-100 pick.
Kemp is expected to open the season as the Braves' cleanup hitter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. This isn't a big surprise after he hit .280/.336/.519 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI in 56 games for the Braves after being acquired from the Padres last year, but the top of Atlanta's lineup could be more dynamic than you might expect in 2017, with Dansby Swanson the favorite to move into the No. 2 hole, and Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman both coming off strong campaigns. The 32-year-old Kemp has topped the 100 RBI mark in each of the last two seasons, and seems poised to make it three in a row.
Kemp was ejected from Friday's game for arguing balls and strikes. Kemp didn't hide his displeasure with a questionable call on a would-be ball four to Nick Markakis and was tossed between innings, and on his birthday no less. Manager Brian Snitker stuck up for Kemp and was also ejected. Mallex Smith took over for Kemp in left field.
Kemp went 2-for-4 with a pair of homers and three RBI against the Marlins on Thursday. Getting liberated from San Diego has been a boon for Kemp even if it took him to another bad team in the Braves -- since moving to Atlanta, he's hitting .295/.346/.521, up across the board from his stats as a Padre. Kemp's quietly blown past 30 homers for the second time and 100 RBI for the fourth time, thanks in no small part to a burning-hot September in which he's hitting .361 with seven homers and 18 RBI over 20 games.