Tony Kemp may be the perfect fit in the Houston Astros outfield.
Houston Astros prospect Tony Kemp has a problem. He has spent most of his baseball life playing second base, and in the Astros organization, the opportunities for advancement at that position are slim. As long as All-star Jose Altuve handles the right side of the infield, Astros minor league second basemen have to wonder about their chances of getting to the Major Leagues.
With Carlos Gomez less than impressive in his brief tenure with the Astros, Kemp, the Astros #14 prospect, may be the man to take over in center field. Gomez, acquired from the Brewers in 2015 via trade, has, as of this writing, played in 46 games for the Astros. He has hit only .243/.283/.379 with four home runs, a meager 13 RBI, with eight walks and 39 strikeouts. His overaggressive style at the plate and in the field has been ineffective. Gomez’ recent comments, according to ESPN and other sources, indicating that he wants to retire as a member of the Brewers, coupled with his uninspired play, has not endeared him to Astros fans.
Kemp has, on the other hand, been impressive at every level with his hustle, hard work, enthusiasm, and positive results. Astros minor leaguer, and Kemp’s former Vanderbilt teammate Conrad Gregor said this about Kemp in a Climbing Tal’s Hill interview by editor Eric Huysman:
“Excitement, Energy, Savvy, and Smile are all words I would describe him by. He always has a smile on his face and he plays the game the right way always hustling on and off the field.”
That is exactly the kind of attitude and effort the Astros need in a player. This is a team that features boundless enthusiasm and effort from Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Dallas Keuchel, among others. These guys are on a mission to win everything in sight. What they do not need is someone who is dreaming of going back to his former team while wearing an Astros uniform. They need Tony Kemp.
Huysman interviewed Kemp in 2015, and asked him about playing the outfield.
“I really don’t focus on position,” said Kemp in the CTH interview. “If the outfield helps me to get to Houston, I’ll gladly trade my infielder’s mitt for an outfielder’s glove.”
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Huysman asked Kemp about his comfort level as an outfielder:
“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.”
Still ranked among the top second base prospects, Kemp could end up being more valuable as an outfielder. With the lackluster play and attitude of Gomez in center field, Kemp could be the perfect fit in that spot for the Astros. He has the speed and range; already making spectacular outfield catches in Double-A Corpus Christi, and at Triple-A Fresno.
Since Kemp isn’t likely to become the Astros second baseman any time soon, a move to the outfield will help the Astros and him. Houston doesn’t need someone who dreams of playing elsewhere. The Astros need a focused, committed, dynamo like Kemp in their every day lineup.
*Stats by Baseball-Reference.com and MiLB.com*