- Full name Matthew Ryan Kemp
- Born 09/23/1984 in Midwest City, OK
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 225 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Midwest City
- Debut 05/28/2006
Drafted in the 6th round (181st overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 (signed for $130,000).
View Draft ReportOF Matt Kemp created a buzz among area scouts as the draft approached and could go as high as the third round to a team that prizes sheer athleticism. But there's as much risk as reward, because he's not close to being ready to contribute to an NCAA Division I program. A 6-foot-5 basketball player, Kemp has an enthralling speed/power combination. He has few baseball instincts as he's just learning the game.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Coming out of high school, Kemp was known mostly for his prowess on the basketball court, but the Dodgers liked his potential and signed him. He made as much improvement as anyone in the organization last season. He broke Adrian Beltre's Vero Beach franchise record for homers, though 22 of his 27 came at home. Kemp has big-time raw power and an aggressive approach. He has strong, quick hands and good bat speed. He kept collapsing on his back side early in 2005, causing him to pop up balls, but he adjusted and later hit the top half of the ball consistently. He shows good instincts in the outfield, above-average speed and a plus arm that plays in right field, where he likely will play more often as he fills out and loses some quickness. Kemp's pitch recognition is rudimentary at best. He's a dead-fastball hitter early in counts, making him vulnerable to changeups. He has a tendency to stride off the ball. Kemp's ceiling is considerable and he could develop into a .275 hitter with 25-30 homers annually. He'll continue refining his game at Double-A in 2006.
Dodgers scouting director Logan White drove a few blocks down the street after scouting high-profile Oklahoma prepster Michael Rogers--signed by the Twins for $300,000 after sliding to the 16th round in 2003--to get a look at Kemp, who was better known as a basketball prospect. Without the grades to secure a Division I college scholarship, Kemp signed in the sixth round. He was flanked in the Columbus outfield by two more polished prospects in Xavier Paul and Jereme Milons (since traded to the Diamondbacks for Elmer Dessens), but made a positive impression on scouts. Kemp's chiseled, 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame has that effect. He has four potential plus tools and made as much improvement in the last year as Joel Guzman, according to some in the organization. Like Guzman, Kemp has monstrous raw power. Balls jump off his bat and he showed a willingness to use all fields. He's a slightly below-average runner down the line and better under way. Kemp is still learning the nuances of playing the outfield, but has an average arm for right field. He can look bad on breaking pitches out of the zone, but also has the aptitude to make adjustments. The Dodgers will likely move him to high Class A this season. He is a bit of a work in progress but showed the potential for a breakthrough season in 2005.
Minor League Top Prospects
A standout basketball player in high school, Kemp attracted attention with his combination of size and athleticism. One look at his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame suggests he is capable of hitting the ball a long way--he homered in three straight games during his first week in the majors--but his speed in the field and on the basepaths shocked observers who hadn't seen him before. Managers liked the way Kemp's hands work to generate excellent bat speed. He jumps on fastballs but can be susceptible to changeups. His speed works well in the outfield and his arm has plenty of strength for him to man right field in the majors. "He was a man in a boys' league when we saw him," Colorado Springs manager Tom Runnells said. "The game was very easy for him here. He's a special individual with all the tools. I see him becoming an all-star at the next level."
Dodgers officials raved about Kemp during spring training, though mainly for his center-field defense. But getting a taste of major league pitching prompted him to make adjustments and use the entire field. He started the SL season on fire and earned a promotion to Los Angeles ahead of Triple-A outfield prospects such as Joel Guzman and Delwyn Young. Jacksonville hitting coach Mike Easler moved Kemp toward home plate so he could better handle pitches on the outer half while retaining the ability to turn on those on the inner half. He has natural lift and leverage to his swing and has the potential to hit 30 homers annually in the majors. While he's not a burner, Kemp has slightly above-average speed and enough range to stay in center. He sometimes gets late jumps on balls but takes good routes. Questions were raised about his makeup when Birmingham manager Chris Cron claimed Kemp struck him in the face during a May brawl, but the Dodgers cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Kemp has improved dramatically since signing as a sixth-round pick in 2003, when he likely would have pursued college basketball instead of baseball had he had the grades to get a college scholarship. He wowed FSL observers with his plus power and surprising speed. Kemp doesn't try to pull everything, showing pop to the opposite field and a good ability to cover the entire plate with his swing. He's a solid average center fielder, though he may grow into a corner outfielder if he continues to add weight to his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame. He has the arm strength for right field if needed. Kemp's athleticism allowed him to succeed despite a relatively poor approach at the plate. He struck out too much as he struggled to read pitches and was susceptible to soft-tossers.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Power Prospect in the Southern League in 2006
- Rated Most Exciting Player in the Southern League in 2006
- Rated Best Athlete in the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006
- Rated Best Athlete in the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005