09/30/09 3:55 AM ET
Kemp on brink of joining elite class
Impressive outfielder on pace for historic season
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
If he can score four more runs and keep his average in the .300s (it's .301 now), he will become the first Dodger in one season to have at least 25 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs scored, 25 doubles, 30 steals and hit .300.
He'll also become only the 15th player in history to have such a season, joining the likes of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, Hank Aaron and Joe Morgan.
"I never envisioned him getting to this point this season, I mean the consistency of his at-bats," manager Joe Torre said of his 25-year-old center fielder.
Kemp's teammates don't hold back on the praise, either.
"The hardest part for Matt is going to be not trying to be better than he is," said Doug Mientkiewicz, who played with A-Rod. "If he just keeps doing what he's doing, he will get better with experience. Just play the game and the numbers will get better by experience alone.
"To me, Matt is what makes us go. He's our team's MVP, not to disrespect Andre Ethier, who is having an MVP year. But Matt brings an edge, a snarl, an aggressiveness to us that we need, that every team needs. We feed off his energy. We respond to him. I was really intrigued with him when I got to camp. I thought he was showy, but he changed my mind in one day.
"Just the way he goes about his business, his preparation, he's fun-loving. He plays all-out every night. To play at that level with his energy 162 is hard to do. There's a handful of guys I'd pay money to see play and he's one of them. He's infectious. I'm a huge Matt Kemp fan and his numbers have nothing to do with it. He has a grinder mentality with superstar skills. You rarely see that."
Randy Wolf played with another player who had one of those seasons, Bobby Abreu, while in Philadelphia.
"If it wasn't for Albert Pujols, Matt would be right there in MVP," said Wolf. "And not only offense, but he tracks down balls in center and keeps runs from scoring and has a great arm. This year he's batted from one to eight in the lineup and it's refreshing, you never hear him say where he wants to hit in the order, never once. He knows he can hit .320 batting eighth and help the team. And he means it. He's genuine about it. He just wants to be in there."
Wolf was with the Dodgers two years ago, when Kemp split time between Triple-A and Los Angeles.
"I've seen a big difference in the two years," Wolf said. "If he keeps in shape and keeps his drive, there is no ceiling, really. He has every skill you'd want in a center fielder. He's plus everything. He has the ability to hit the breaking ball."
Clayton Kershaw is the youngest Dodger, but he best appreciates Kemp's defense.
"If he doesn't get a Gold Glove, something's wrong," said Kershaw. "I don't think about it during the game, but the outs he saves, the plays he makes look routine that really aren't. You see him get balls in the gap that fall on other teams, but Matt makes the catch. He's a game-saver."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.