Matt Kemp is the Best Center Fielder in Baseball

No, this has nothing to do with meaningless All-Star game selections (but come on, the entire Phillies outfield?) It’s not even about superhero heroics like an extra-inning grand slam following by an incredible over-the-shoulder catch (though, that was all amazingly cool).

Instead, this comes down to simple numbers, such as our go-to friend…

VORP!
1) Beltran 32.7
2) Hunter 32.6
3) Kemp 32.6

The 4th place outfielder, Shane Victorino, is far enough behind at 26.9 to not even be in the conversation (but at least he’s an All-Star! *insert wanking motion here*) “But Kemp is tied for second, and that’s even with Beltran and Hunter missing time,” you protest. To which I say: shut up. That’s exactly the point, isn’t it? Beltran and Hunter are both on the DL for at least the next month or so, and in Beltran’s case perhaps much longer. So there’s your first thing – it’s hard to say guys who can barely walk at the moment are better players.

kemp.jpgThis goes beyond pure production, anyway – it’s about value. I think you’ll enjoy these next two charts…

2009 Salary
Beltran – $18.5m
Hunter – $18m
Kemp – $467,000

And that means…

$/1.0 VORP
Beltran – $565,749
Hunter – $552,147
Kemp – $14,325

Which basically means, in terms of salary versus production, Kemp is roughly 38-39 times more valuable than either of his contenders for the crown, Beltran and Hunter. That sounds about right – according to FanGraphs, Kemp is providing $19.3 million worth of value to the Dodgers this year.

Oh, and Kemp’s just 24 and still clearly improving, month-by-month. Meanwhile, Hunter turns 34 next week, and Beltran’s 32. So who would you prefer?

We’ve mentioned a few times that it’s really time to lock up Chad Billingsley to a long-term contract, but Kemp is rapidly joining that category as well. We’re pretty sure that he’s the real deal by now, right? Let’s get on that, yesterday.

Well, that and to get him out of the 8th spot, which is so inane that I haven’t even been able to dicuss it.

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