Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 Draft, Player of Interest: Trenton Kemp, OF

Trenton Kemp, OF
Buchanan High School
DOB: 9/30/1995
HT: 6-2 WT: 190
B/T: R/R

In addition to professional hitters, another area where the Reds farm system is thin is pure athleticism. Buchanan High School outfielder Trenton Kemp provides that in spades.

Kemp attends Buchanan High School in Clovis, California. He lost a year and half of development time as he stopped playing baseball to focus on football. He spent that time working out to improve his speed, vertical leap, strength, and explosiveness to increase his chances of being offered a college football scholarship.

In that effort, he attended the U.S. Army National Football Combine where he posted the highest vertical, 37.5 inches, of all 537 participants. He ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial 4.48 seconds, which was good for 97th percentile at the event. And, he flashed agility and quickness in posting a shuttle-run time that landed him in the 94th percentile at the event.

Not only can he run really fast and jump really high, but he's tremendously strong. At the event, he benched 185 pounds 23 times, which was the most of any player weighing less than 205.

Ultimately, he decided to return to baseball where his new freakish athleticism gives him very good upside. After returning to baseball and settling back into a hitting routine, the feel for the game started to return. He showed enough early in his junior season to receive a baseball scholarship offer to Fresno State. He committed to his hometown school and there's where he'll end up unless the MLB draft alters his plans.

It goes without saying that Kemp is a workout warrior (one with only 6% body fat who doesn't eat fast food or drink soda) who will never have trouble staying in tip top physical shape. That speaks to his dedication and commitment to improvement. It's very clear that he has very good physical strength, but the question is how effectively he can translate that strength and athleticism into baseball production.

Here's a look at how Kemp attempts to do just that, courtesy of Big League Futures on YouTube:

And, a slow-motion look at his swing mechanics:

Kemp uses a shoulder-width stance and takes a low stride forward to transfer his weight. He maintains good balance throughout the swing and gets good extension despite a relatively compact swing. One possible area of concern is that he loads his hands so deep that he risks falling into an arm-bar position with his left arm. The arm-bar would add length to his swing and make it difficult to handle and turn on pitches on the inner half. In addition, Kemp's swing path is somewhat flat, oriented more towards line drives than fly balls, which could impede his efforts to carry his power into games.

Kemp's compact swing makes him an intriguing prospect when paired with his power potential. Even if the power doesn't develop, his speed could be a real weapon if paired with a good hit tool. His athleticism gives him a lot of potential avenues to value.

On defense, Kemp has the speed to stick in center and while his arm strength hasn't been the greatest, he has adopted a long-toss program to strengthen it. His skill set should allow him to hold down a premier defensive position, which only serves to increase his value.

Ultimately, Kemp is highly athletic and relatively raw. That gives him a wider spread of career outcomes than most, as his ceiling is higher and his floor lower. The lost development time due to the football flirtation will put him behind the development curve, but he has the tools needed to catch up in a hurry. What he needs most is more ABs and to see more and more pitches.

Kemp is a boom or bust type prospect, but one who is intriguing outside of the first couple of rounds of the draft where the opportunity cost is lower and a gamble on pure athleticism and an underwhelming present hit-tool is more palatable.

The Reds could use more athleticism and electricity in the system and Kemp would bring an intriguing package of tools and a high ceiling to the system. 

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