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Matt Kemp has exceeded expectations so far with the Braves

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Even after he finished last season on a high, the expectations for Matt Kemp were pretty low heading into this season. So far, he’s on track for a solidly productive season.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Back in the offseason, one of my main concerns with Matt Kemp was whether or not we’d get the notoriously slow-starting version of Kemp or if we’d see the one who helped revitalize what had been a dormant Braves offense up until his arrival.

You don’t need me to tell you that Kemp’s been doing a pretty good job at the plate so far this season, but it still nice to observe the stats — he’s currently hitting .345/.381/.608 with 10 HRs and 160 wRC+, which has been good for 1.3 fWAR. Simply put, the man has exceeded expectations so far this season and has ended up being a steal of a deal in what was supposed to be a mutual salary dump trade with the Padres.

Matt Kemp in 2017 has already been worth one more fWAR than he was for entirety of the 2016 season (0.7 fWAR) and unless his production just completely falls off of a cliff (or it turns out that he pulled a reverse of his normal trends and instead of starting out slow and finishing on fire, he’s come out of the gates ablaze and will end the season on a major cool down), he’s on track to have the best season he’s had since his “glory days” with the Dodgers.

So naturally this brings up the next question: Can he keep this up? Weirdly enough, it could depend on if he can continue hitting like he can away from the supposed hitter’s paradise of SunTrust Park. He’s been hitting at a decent clip in Cobb County (.303/.352/.455 with 113 wRC+), but he’s been absolutely raking whenever the Braves leave, as evidenced by his slash line of .371/.400/.705, which includes an ISO of .333.

A lot of his success in the future will depend on just how much he cools off on the road and/or heats up at home. If his home/road splits level off (especially on the road, because there’s no way that that’s going to be sustainable) then he’d still be on track for a pretty decent season — just not one that’s got him in line for All-Star consideration like he’s currently experiencing right now.

There’s also the looming specter of injuries. He’s in his age-32 season with arthritic hips, and while it would be fantastic if he could avoid a lengthy stint on the DL — which he did manage to pull off back in April when he only missed a handful of games due to a hamstring strain — that’s always something that you worry could catch up to him. Granted, he’s averaged around 153 games played for the past three seasons so he has been durable in that span but at the same time you also hope that this isn’t the year that it catches up to him. So while it hasn’t been a major issue, it would be lovely if it remained a minor issue that’s just in the back of my paranoid brain instead of moving into the forefront as an issue.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Meanwhile, there’s another thing that we could worry about, and that’s what the lineup would look like if he were to be traded. Fortunately for this year’s team, I actually think that it’s a bit unlikely that Matt Kemp will be traded. He’s set to make $19 million a year for the next two seasons, so unless another team wants to give up prospects and also become another team from whom Matt Kemp collects checks from, then the price tag could be a bit too steep for most teams to meet.

Additionally, the Braves appear to have a bevy of other, cheaper trade chips at their disposal, so if/when the team decides to sell, they could dip into those resources instead of potentially moving Kemp. Jon Heyman recently came up with a list of 70 players who he could see hitting the trade block. Six Braves were on that list, but the topic of this blog post was conspicuously absent.

Plus, the idea of the Braves having a draw to SunTrust Park is also an option. If Kemp is still hitting like he is by the time the trade deadline rolls around, them just having him around would be beneficial for the gate, and considering it’s still the first season, the Braves are probably still going to want to keep one of their main draws around town in an effort to keep the appearance of remaining competitive — for better or worse as far as the long-term team building is concerned.

Of course, John Coppolella could pull another fast one on us all and find a way to get a buyer to take Matt Kemp off of the Braves’ hands, but in my opinion there isn’t a huge chance of that happening. I’d say that Kemp’s in it with Atlanta for the next season or so.

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If Matt Kemp can continue producing like he has since donning an Atlanta Braves uniform, then keeping him around wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He’s done all of the right things since being acquired, and his production has exceeded expectations as well.

Considering the circumstances surrounding his arrival in Atlanta, the Braves have every right to be pleased with what they’ve gotten from Kemp so far, and if it continues then that will just be a pleasant bonus.