Matt Kemp: “I’m not a fourth outfielder”

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Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has played in 179 of a possible 324 regular season games over the past two years due to [background changes from night to day, summer to winter while I recount] a strained left hamstring, a right knee contusion, a frayed labrum in his left shoulder (which required surgery in October 2012), inflammation of the AC joint in his left shoulder, a sprained left ankle, debridement of the AC joint in his left shoulder (required surgery in October 2013), and surgery to repair a bone spur, get rid of loose bodies, and heal a microfracture in the talus bone in his left ankle.

Manager Don Mattingly doesn’t believe Kemp will be ready for the Dodgers’ season opener against the Diamondbacks in Australia on March 22, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Kemp hasn’t run yet on his surgically-repaired ankle. Thankfully for the Dodgers, they have three fully capable and healthy outfielders in Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig. The more time Kemp misses, the easier it will be for the Dodgers — who still owe him $128 million through 2019 — to slide him into a bench role, and eventually pursue a trade.

According to ESPN’s Mark Saxon, Kemp says he “won’t accept that role”.

“I’m not a fourth outfielder. We can cut that off right there,” Kemp said. “I won’t accept that role. I can’t accept that role.”

We are moving into the third season since Kemp nearly won the NL MVP award, leading the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBI along with an impressive adjusted OPS of 172. He was even productive in 2012 as he succumbed to injuries, hitting .303 with a .906 OPS. But his numbers plummeted in 2013. His power vanished, he was essentially a non-factor on the bases, and his mastery of the strike zone weakened.

Kemp is still only 29 years old, and he very well may have plenty of productive seasons ahead of him if he can stay healthy. The Dodgers, well-constructed to stampede through the NL West, don’t need to wait to see if Kemp can handle the rigors of a 162-game season, though. As such, Kemp may end up a part-timer whether he likes it or not.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves