The second base position was a big question mark for the A's heading into the 2020 MLB season.
Prior to spring training, the team’s main need was a lefty infield bat, particularly to platoon with Franklin Barreto who, if he figures it out at the major-league level, could be a game-changer for an entire lineup.
But Barreto hasn't gotten much of a chance this season, not with Tony Kemp around. He changed everything. Through two-plus weeks of the season, it appears those second base questions have been answered.
On Saturday, Chad Pinder got the start at second just as he did on Opening Day, but Kemp has done a sensational job of filling in when needed, and not just as a runner on second base when the A’s find themselves in extras innings -- which has been the case lately.
In 10 games this season, Kemp is slashing .316/.500/.316 with two stolen bases, and that on-base percentage is boosted by a 25.9 percent walk rate. Not to mention, in the month of August alone, he’s gone 6-for-12 with a 1.147 OPS and is batting .500.
“Tony’s playing very well too, so we’re comfortable with both of those guys,” A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
Before the season, Kemp was one of a many options vying for time at second base for the A’s, and now he's splitting time with Pinder.
Even with prospect Jorge Mateo traded to the San Diego Padres, it looked to be a difficult decision to make with Kemp being thrown into the mix with Barreto and Rule 5 addition Vimael Machin also there.
But Melvin hasn’t forgotten about them.
“Barreto and Machin are the guys that aren’t getting a ton of at-bats right now, but at some point in time, they’re going to be called upon whether it’s injury, whether it’s days off, and they’re both working hard to stay ready,” Melvin said.
Beyond the production at the plate, Kemp has blended in beautifully with the team as a whole.
Only with the A's for a brief period of time, Kemp noticed the A’s wanted to learn about the “+1 Effect” campaign he launched, and his fun, playful personality lines up perfectly with the tone the team has always set. The productivity is an added bonus.
“At this point in time, we like how we’re doing it with Tony and Chad,” Melvin added. “They’re both contributing to wins on both sides.”