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Make or break for Matt Kemp
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The way I see it, there are two kinds of frustrating.

One is the simple kind. You know, life's little annoyances, like waiting at a red light for five minutes when nobody's around. Ke$ha songs and Jose Bautista's Twitter account are also excellent examples of this.

But there's also another kind, the kind that makes you want to rip your hair out one clump at a time. This is called being a Matt Kemp fantasy owner.

Thanks to Kemp, I had about as much hair as George Costanza by the end of last season. The man is single-handedly putting barber shops out of business.

Admit it. What Kemp did to us in 2012 was just cruel. Going three months without a homer after hitting 12 in April? Kanye West treats paparazzi better than that.

At least in 2013 Kemp had the common courtesy to stink all season instead of pulling another bait and switch on us (.270, 6 HR, 33 RBI in 73 games). Most fantasy owners had already moved on by the time his ankle gave out in mid- July.

Luckily for Kemp, fantasy owners don't hold grudges.

Okay, that was a lie. Of course we do. That's why Kemp's average draft position is in the mid-40s. If we're using 12-team leagues as the industry standard, that makes him a fourth-round pick.

Two years ago, saying those words in that order would have gotten you arrested in certain parts of this country. But now that Kemp's secret is out (the secret being that he's actually not that good), some people think even taking him in the fourth round would be a stretch.

Few have been as vocal in the crusade against Kemp as Eric Karabell. The ESPN fantasy analyst recently placed Kemp on his annual "Do Not Draft" list. Though to be fair, he also put Craig Kimbrel (1.11 ERA since 2012) on that same list. To each his own, I suppose.

Nevertheless, the seed of doubt has been planted. Just in terms of power, Kemp's numbers have plummeted since 2011. Last year he posted a lower slugging percentage (.395) than Carl Crawford (.407), Andre Ethier (.423) and Yasiel Puig (.534). Essentially, he was the Dodgers' worst offensive outfielder.

But maybe that's not all Kemp's fault. Who would have guessed that a sprained ankle, an injury most guys recover from in about two weeks, would cost Kemp almost the entire second half? And even now, Kemp still isn't running at full speed. Once a lock for 30+ steals, Kemp's balky ankles might not even make it to double-digits this year.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Not in Los Angeles. The Dodgers played some of their best baseball without Kemp last season.

Yasiel Puig (.319, 19 HR) asserted himself as the club's most dangerous hitter while Andre Ethier was able to resurrect his broken swing (.315 AVG in July/August). Even Carl Crawford, though still a ripoff at $20 million a year, was able to hold his own most nights (.283 AVG was his highest since 2010).

Suddenly we have to consider the possibility that Kemp, once a frontrunner for MVP, could actually be the odd man out in L.A.'s crowded outfield. Even if he does see regular at bats, it wouldn't be surprising if manager Don Mattingly sat Kemp every fourth or fifth day. That lowers Kemp's ceiling significantly.

What make's Kemp's decline even more depressing is that he used to be so durable. Kemp sat out just 11 times between 2008 and 2011. Since then, he's missed 145 of the Dodgers' 324 games.

The whole thing has a very Grady Sizemore feel to it. Sizemore, just like Kemp, peaked in his mid-20s. He averaged 28 HR, 81 RBI, 31 SB and a .279 average during a three-year stretch from 2006 to 2008.

What followed was Sizemore's descent into baseball oblivion (.234, 28 HR in just 832 at bats over his next three seasons). Miraculously, Sizemore has resurfaced with the Red Sox but not to the point where fantasy owners would actually consider him as a legitimate option.

For Kemp, this upcoming season isn't just about proving the haters wrong. It's about survival.

I guess I won't be needing a haircut anytime soon.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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