The love for Houston Astros prospects continues!
Fresh off the news that first base prospect A.J. Reed is considered the best out of his position throughout the minors per MLB Pipeline, another Houston Astros prospect now joins him as among the best at his respective position. And it is none other than second baseman Tony Kemp.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline considers Kemp as the eighth-best second base prospect in minor league baseball. This rank places him one spot behind Micah Johnson of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and just ahead of Rob Refsnyder of the New York Yankees organization. Kemp’s ranking is due to his impressive 2015 season in which he slashed .308/.388/.386 along with his ability to steal bases and get on base at a high rate. Of course, most of his success came during his 50 games with at the AA level (155 wRC+). Though Kemp experienced a drop in numbers once he reached the AAA level, he still managed to put up respectable numbers (.273/.334/.362) for the Fresno Grizzlies.
And let’s not forget Kemp’s first home run as a Grizzly didn’t happen because of his power, but due to his amazing wheels.
From a tool standpoint, Kemp has an impressive arsenal at his disposal. Even though he won’t impress anyone with his power, his plus speed (60/60) tool is highly regarded. His hit (20/50) and game power (20/35) tools project to improve in time. And his field tool (45/50) projects to provide adequate coverage at second base.
Combine his success in 2015 with his tools, and the former Vanderbilt standout has a bright future in professional baseball. However, Kemp’s path to the majors is currently blocked as a second baseman by an already established Jose Altuve.
Per Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline:
"“In another organization, Kemp could be preparing for a shot at winning the second-base job after hitting, getting on base and running his way up to Triple-A in 2015.” – Mayo."
This is an accurate description of Kemp’s current situation within the Astros hierarchy at second base. While the team won’t move Altuve to accommodate Kemp, it is very possible that the 24-year old infielder could be transitioned to other positions. After all, Kemp has experience playing in the outfield, most recently in center field for the Grizzlies. And with questions surrounding Carlos Gomez and Jake Marisnick manning center field at Minute Maid Park for the long term, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kemp in the outfield experiment continue in 2016.
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Regardless of his future position this year and beyond, Kemp has clearly established himself as one of the best second basemen in minor league baseball. Between his ability to hit at a consistent rate and the havoc he can cause with his speed, he would be a valuable addition to any lineup. And he is no slouch in the field as well. The Astros clearly have an interesting dilemma with the young speedster going forward. But remember, this is a good problem.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference**