Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was placed on the 15-day DL yesterday with a strained hamstring, and the team recalled Jerry Sands from AAA to replace him on the roster. Kemp is only expected to miss the minimum 15 days, and should be ready to go on May 29th. The Dodgers might not miss him all that much, with the 6.5 game lead they have over the Giants in the NL West, and only three games over the rest of May against teams above .500 (a series with the Cardinals this weekend, at Dodger Stadium). But overall, how much will the Dodgers miss Kemp?
Matt Kemp hasn't been just the best Dodgers player this season, he's been the best hitter in the National League. 12 homers, a 1.173 OPS, and 28 RBI really emphasize that point. But Kemp is protected in the order by a pretty damn good hitter in Andre Ethier, who has a .960 OPS, eight homers, and 33 RBI this year. However, Ethier won't be replacing Kemp in the Dodgers' lineup...that will likely be Tony Gwynn Jr, who isn't half the hitter that Kemp is. Gwynn has most of his value come from his glove, as his bat is really nothing special. He's got decent plate discipline, but no power...a key trait for an outfielder, especially when you're replacing an outfielder in Kemp who has a .368 ISO this year.
The presence of Kemp has resulted in LA putting a top ten offense onto the field this year. Taking him away will obviously hurt their overall production, but I don't think it will cripple them. If Kemp is only out until the end of the month like initially expected, the Dodgers can make do with Gwynn, Sands, and Scott Van Slyke splitting time in the outfield to replace him. These three couldn't combine to match the production of Kemp in center, but with LA's weak schedule for the rest of the month, I don't think the Dodgers are going to necessarily need him. When you also consider the offensive production that the Dodgers have gotten from Ethier, catcher AJ Ellis (.954 OPS in 28 games), and recent signee Bobby Abreu (.789 and looking rejuvenated in ten NL games), the Dodgers should continue with business as usual while Kemp is out.
If Kemp suffers a setback and will miss a substantial amount of time though, things could get much more complicated for the Dodgers.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com
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