Tony Kemp’s bat has been making noise early in spring training. He continued his hot start with a home run in the A's 1-1 tie against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday in Peoria, Ariz.
“He’s done everything well,” A's manager Bob Melvin said following the game. “He’s walked, he’s getting on base, he’s obviously swinging the bat well, hit a homer there -- just missed one the time before. We brought him back for a reason and he can help you in different ways whether it’s in the infield, whether it’s in the outfield -- whether it’s running -- every now and then showing a little pop too.”
Kemp has had three hits in four Cactus League games thus far.
Yes, it’s early, but it’s enough to make you wonder. And especially for someone of Kemp’s caliber who once again is a big part of the A’s second base competition.
Last season in 49 games, Kemp slashed .247/.363/.301 with five doubles, four RBI and three stolen bases.
What does the timeline entail as to whether or not these early performances play a role in a deciding factor? Well, believe it or not, part of it has to do with the pitcher.
“Usually I start paying attention when the pitchers start throwing breaking balls,” 17-year veteran MLB manager Clint Hurdle told NBC Sports California.
Typically, when a pitcher, who already has established these pitches as part of their repertoire, brings in these secondary pitches into a spring training game, that’s when there is a better determinant of how a batter could hit in the regular season.
Early on in the season, most of the pitchers, especially with very limited outings, are focusing on their fastballs. Kemp's strong start to spring training isn’t everything, but it is an eye-opener.
Kemp’s lefty bat is a valuable piece of the ongoing battle for the starting second base job. Last season, utility guy Chad Pinder got the Opening Day nod, and there’s a possibility the two could platoon at the position this season.
Or, as Melvin said, there’s a chance Kemp could be used in a variety of ways and has mentioned having Kemp play outfield a couple times, especially since lefty bat Robbie Grossman left for the Detroit Tigers in free agency.
Kemp definitely has a strong chance of being a bigger part of the equation in 2021, especially if he keeps hitting like he has early in March.