Astros Prospects: Tony Kemp Interview

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Learning about Astros prospects has been really fun for me. The best thing about interviewing Conrad Gregor is that the Vanderbilt boys stick together, I got two interviews for the price of one. I told Gregor that I was interested in an interview with his buddy, Astros second base prospect Tony Kemp. Two days later Tony Kemp followed me and asked “you wanted to do an interview?”

The two Vanderbilt players that the Astros drafted in 2013 have garnered my attention not only because of their play, but also because they were college teammates drafted in back-to-back rounds (fourth and fifth). Granted, Jose Altuve is blocking second base, but it was interesting to imagine that the Astros drafted a first and second basemen from the same college team. Could this be the next Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell pair?

Too soon for that talk, but one thing they have both have in common so far, is that they are already in Double-A Corpus Christi. Want to know what Conrad Gregor had to say, click here!

Tony Kemp’s Interview

May 26, 2013; Hoover, AL, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores infielder Tony Kemp (6) tosses his helmet after grounding out in the tenth inning against the LSU Tigers during the championship game of the SEC baseball tournament at the Hoover Met. LSU defeated Vanderbilt 5-4 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

 CTH: What have you been doing this offseason to get you ready for 2015?

Kemp: Really preparing my body in the weight room, putting on more mass to my frame. I’ve added 10 lbs. of muscle this offseason, which will come in handy for me this year.

CTH: Conrad Gregor and yourself have risen fast through the Astros minor leagues. How has your progress met with your expectations when drafted?

Kemp: I really didn’t have any expectations coming into the system. I just tried to go have fun and play baseball. That’s one thing I’ve always done, and just let the chips fall where they may. I really don’t have control over how fast I move, only how hard I play and how I approach the game. If I prepare the way I’ve been coached and play the game the right way I’ll be where I want to be and that’s in Houston.

CTH: What was it like when you heard that you and Conrad Gregor had been drafted by the Astros?

Kemp: Crazy, in a word. I’ll never forget being on the practice field for the Super Regionals and finding out that both Conrad and I had been drafted by the Astros. It was pretty sweet to know that I was about to enter pro baseball with a good friend.

CTH: Second base is now occupied by Jose Altuve, have there been talks about moving you back to the outfield?

Kemp: No one has said anything to me about it yet. Honestly, I just check the lineup every day and check for my name. I really don’t focus on position. If the outfield helps me to get to Houston, I’ll gladly trade my infielder’s mitt for an outfielder’s glove.

CTH: Do you see yourself as more of a Jose Altuve or Robinson Cano type player?

Kemp: Probably more Altuve than Cano.

CTH: Many Astros fans see you as the starting center fielder by 2016. What do you need to approve on before you get the call to the big leagues?

Kemp: That’s a nice thought, but I leave my adjustments and evaluations to my coaches and the organization. My job is to play the game hard and improve every day. In doing that, I will be ready when I get my opportunity with the big club.

CTH: You have played a handful of games in the outfield. What is your comfort level?

Kemp: I played there through high school and starting my career at Vandy. Going back to the outfield isn’t a problem for me, I’m very comfortable out there.

CTH: What is your technique for stealing bases, and what makes you better than most at stealing bases?

Kemp: I try to be a student of the game in this department. I try to read each pitcher and how quick he is to the plate. If it’s in my favor, I take the bag. I just try to be quick to my first step and explode into my stride. I’m trying to improve upon the amount of times I’m caught. I never want to take a run away from the team or an RBI away from a teammate.

CTH: What favorite player did you have as a kid, and which player have you emulated your game after?

Kemp: Ken Griffey Jr. was my favorite player by far. I always wanted to make the game winning catch or have the walk off hit as it seemed he always did. I think I tried to emulate him the most at the plate. Ozzie Smith was who I tried to play like in the infield. I grew up as a shortstop when I was younger, so that was a no brainer.

CTH: Looking at your numbers, you don’t do something most Astros prospects do. You only have 114 strikeouts in two seasons! What is your approach to limiting strikeouts?

Kemp: I’ve always felt that I was in control of my strike zone. I always have a confidence in the box. To me knowing a ball from a strike is like knowing right from wrong, its second nature to me now. Having a consistent approach each time helps a great deal as well. When you’re confident in the box the pressure is on the pitcher to try and get you out.

CTH: You scored 121 runs last year, what led to that large amount?

Kemp: Great question. You may know Carlos Correa, Conrad Gregor, Teoscar Hernandez, Colin Moran, and the list goes on. They are all great hitters and it showed in the runs scored category for me. All I have to do is get on base and prepare to run with the players in this organization. It seemed like one of those guys was always hitting a gap for me to race home.

CTH: I don’t know this person Correa, is he on Twitter? (It was a joke everyone, he got it.)

Kemp: Ha-Ha

CTH: Which player have you played with or against has really impressed you with their talent?

Kemp: Sonny Gray. I played with him while at Vandy. His approach to the game was second to none. He was one of the best competitors I’ve ever seen. Then talk about his mid-90’s arm with a neck breaking curveball. There is a reason why he’s a big part of the A’s rotation already in his career.

CTH: Give 3 things Astros fans need to know about you?

Kemp: I love the game of baseball, I have an addiction to candy, and I think the offseason is WAY too long.

CTH: What is your most favorite moment as a baseball player?

Kemp: Reaching the College World Series for the first time in Vanderbilt history. There was no feeling like that moment, I’ll never forget that day.

CTH: What was your most embarrassing moment as a baseball player?

Kemp: My last year at Vandy I hit a ball into the right field corner, I rounded second and tripped half way between second and third. Thankfully I made it safely, but I was pretty embarrassed to have fallen.

CTH: Last question, who will be the first person you call when you get called up to the big leagues?

Kemp: I’ll call my brother, Corey. He’s been a huge inspiration in my life and including baseball.

CTH: Great answer, thanks for your time Tony. We hope to see you up in AAA this season.

Kemp: Thanks, I appreciate it!

Summary of Tony Kemp Interview

Apparently the field that Vanderbilt uses is some type of turf on the infield dirt. When I Googled Tony Kemp, I found a reference to a long slide he did when he was in college. This was after the interview, so I didn’t get to ask him. Take a look at the slide here!

Kemp seems like a down to earth type of guy, but so did Conrad Gregor. Maybe I should have gone to Vanderbilt. With Altuve at second base, and Kemp on the rise, a change of position is probably in the cards.

If you don’t want Jose Altuve leading off, I have a great person in mind. This player scored 121 runs between AA and High-A, while stealing 41 bases and batting .316. The best thing is, he will not join the Astros’ Generation K when he makes it to the big leagues. He walked 73 times and struck out 67 times in 631 plate appearances.

I vote for Tony Kemp as lead-off hitter in 2016 or sooner, and whether he admits it or not, I’m sure Tony approves this message.

Welcome to Generation Vandy, with the Astros 2013 4th and 5th round picks.

Other Interviews

Astros Prospect: Conrad Gregor

Astros Prospect: Brett Phillips (He wants to go by Maverick)

Astros Prospect: Preston Tucker

Dan Straily Interview

Which Astros Prospect would you like me try to interview next?

Next: Astros Spring Training: Where to Play Gattis?

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