The Houston Astros promoted infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp to the major league roster yesterday. Here is a quick look at what to expect.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Tony Kemp, 2B, Houston Astros
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 5-6 WT: 165 DOB: October 31, 1991
2015: Grade B-
A fifth round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2013, Kemp is a small guy but has some tools, with running speed (at least 60 on the 20-80 scale) the loudest one. He excels as a contact hitter, controls the strike zone well, and will occasionally surprise you with gap power. He wasn’t challenged by pro pitching until he reached Triple-A and even there he held his own, hitting well in June (.306/.344/.376) and August (.315/.398/.466) with a July cold spell (.228/.283/.293) dragging down his overall numbers a bit. I think he can be a .270-.280 hitter in the majors with enough steals and doubles to play regularly for some teams. Kemp’s defense at second base has been knocked but personally I think he’s playable there, though of course he’s blocked in Houston unless someone gets hurt ahead of him. The Astros gave him some time in the outfield last summer to increase his versatility. His speed works well at any outfield position but he doesn’t have a great arm. Kemp may end up as a super-utility guy but I have liked him since his college days. Grade B-.
Kemp hit .308/.388/.386 last year in 464 at-bats combined between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, with 35 steals and a 56/66 BB/K ratio. His production so far in 2016 is similar: .298/.410/.405 with Fresno, with a 21/22 BB/K in 121 at-bats.
At this point Kemp is a proven commodity in the minors with little left to prove in Triple-A. As a hitter his ability to control the strike zone and spray line drives to all fields has been a steady asset since college. I still see him as a guy who can hit .280 in the majors with a reasonable OBP, speed, and gap pop contributions.
Where he plays in Houston is the question. He continued to split playing time between second base and the outfield this spring and while he won't wow you with his defensive tools or his throwing arm, he makes few mental mistakes and has yet to commit an error at any position this year. His makeup is considered excellent; he hustles, works hard at making needed improvements, and is considered a positive presence for fans and in the clubhouse.
For some teams Kemp would be in the mix as a possible regular second baseman, but for Houston right now his best role is as a super-utility player or as trade bait.
Here's a nifty outfield play from late April.