In 2011, Matt Kemp was widely considered one of the best players in the Majors. He hit .329 with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs while playing in 161 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers; Kemp’s play earned him a second-place finish in voting for National League MVP.
Kemp then battled injuries throughout 2012 and again in 2013. He began this season on the disabled list, but was activated for the Dodgers’ first home series of the year. While Kemp returned to the lineup just five games in, he hardly resembled the player he once was.
The Oklahoma native’s struggles led to him being taken out of center field and benched for a stretch of games. Kemp failed to find his footing in left field then became the starting right fielder in a move that helped stabilize the Dodgers’ outfield.
Kemp linked his success in right field to it being the position he played when he debuted with the Dodgers, via the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett:
I started in the big leagues as a right fielder. That was my main position in the minor leagues. So right field is comfortable to me.”
Kemp also shared his belief left field is a difficult position to play and said he has no qualms with being in right:
Left field is probably one of the hardest positions to play in the outfield. Center field, that was another one of my main positions. But right now I feel really good in right field and I have no complaints at this moment.”
Along with being at ease in right field, Kemp’s success is also a product of him playing regularly and finding his timing as the season wore on. The outfielder finished the year batting .287 with 25 home runs and 89 RBIs; Kemp’s batting average this season nearly matched his .292 career average.