It is somewhat by necessity, but the Oakland A’s are giving Tony Kemp a chance to show what he can do as a starter.
Tony Kemp filled a vital role with the Houston Astros, and later, with the Chicago Cubs. A utility player, he appeared primarily at center, left, and second, providing defensive versatility and speed from the bench. While not the same type of player as a Chad Pinder or a Ben Zobrist, Kemp has been a valuable piece for a contending team.
When he was acquired by the Oakland A’s for minor league outfielder Alfonso Rivas, Kemp’s role had changed. With Jurickson Profar having been dealt a month before, Kemp was now locked into a battle to be the A’s starting second baseman.
The timing of that decision was a bit odd. Kemp was coming off a miserable 2019 season, where he posted a .212/.291/.380 batting line in his 279 plate appearances, hitting nine doubles and eight homers. Kemp made sense as a buy-low candidate, but as a starter at second?
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Kemp also did not have much experience at the major league level at second prior to last season. Of his 55 career games at second, 43 of those occurred last season. However, he was primarily a second baseman in the minors, showing solid range and a good glove. With Jose Altuve entrenched at second, it was difficult for Kemp to get time at the keystone.
He now has an opportunity to settle back in at his original position. His competition, Franklin Barreto and Vimael Machin, are not exactly the second coming of Ryne Sandberg and Rogers Hornsby. All Kemp needs to do is be a solid bat over the next few days, and he will, at worst, be on the strong side of a platoon at second.
Kemp had done just that in spring training. Before the pandemic struck, he had produced a solid .345/.412/.483 batting line over his 34 plate appearances, hitting a double and a home run while stealing a base. Although Barreto has gotten the attention in the A’s summer camp, Kemp has done nothing to minimize his impact on the season.
All Tony Kemp needed was a chance. The Oakland A’s are providing him with that.