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Thursday, March 7, 2013
Over/under: Matt Kemp's home runs

By David Schoenfield

If you like the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the NL West in 2013, you probably like Matt Kemp's chances of repeating his spectacular 2011, when he was arguably the best player in baseball. Some would argue there wasn't actually an argument to be had.

After missing just 11 games over the previous four seasons, Kemp played just 106 games and had surgery after the season to patch up a torn labrum and clean up his rotator cuff on his left, non-throwing arm. He couldn't swing a bat until January and just played his first few spring training games (he's 0-for-8 with three strikeouts, not that anyone is counting yet).

Anyway, despite the shoulder problems, Kemp's rate stats were close to what he put up the year before:

2011: .324/.399/.586, .380 BABIP, 14.7% HR/FB
2012: .303/.367/.538, .354 BABIP, 14.6% HR/FB

That last stat is home run percentage on fly balls, which he maintained despite the shoulder injury. Kemp's 2012 was really two seasons, however. He hit .417 in April with 12 home runs. He went on the DL on May 14 with a strained hamstring, and from May 1 to the end of the season hit .273/.333/.445. In September, his control of the strike zone vanished as he struck out 32 times and drew only five walks, hitting .222.

So he has two things to prove once the season kicks in: Show his shoulder is healthy, and show that September was just a result of playing through that banged-up shoulder. He's never been a big walker (he drew 74 in 2011 thanks to 24 intentional walks), but if he's to remain one of the game's best hitters he can't swing with the reckless aggressiveness he did in September.

What's your prediction? The projection systems all have him hitting 29 to 32 home runs, with a similar triple-line slash as 2012. I'm going to take the high end of that and put his over/under at 32.5 home runs. He's been a durable player in his career, so I expect him to play his usual 160 or so games.