A Dodgers outfielder who was acquired primarily as a cost-cutting move last winter appears destined to start the July 17 All-Star game at Washington.
Matt Kemp moved past Bryce Harper of the Nationals and into second place in voting among National League outfielders on Monday. With 10 days left in fan balloting, Kemp, with about 1.5 million votes, has a sizable advantage over Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, who ranks fourth with 983,660 votes.
Atlanta’s Nick Markakis leads NL outfielders with about 1.8 million votes, and Harper is third with about 1.4 million votes.
The Dodgers acquired Kemp from Atlanta in December for pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and infielder Charlie Culberson in an exchange of bloated contracts designed to drop their 2018 payroll below the $197-million luxury-tax threshold.
Kemp was expected to be traded before the season, but he reported to spring training in excellent shape, got off to a hot start and has been the team’s best hitter so far.
The left fielder entered Monday night’s game with a .318 average, .904 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 13 homers, 16 doubles and 47 RBIs. He ranked second in the league with a .415 average (22 for 53) with runners in scoring position.
“The thing about Matt is, he was just taking it day to day,” said Dave Roberts, who will manage the NL team. “He was given an opportunity and took advantage of it. He came in to compete and to show that he would earn opportunities to get at-bats. He’s taken it and become an All-Star in 2018.”
Kemp, who played his first nine big league seasons (2006-2014) in Los Angeles, made the All-Star team in 2011 and 2012, and was an NL starter in 2011.
He is the only Dodger with a chance of starting this year’s game; first baseman Cody Bellinger ranks fourth in voting, and third baseman Justin Turner, catcher Yasmani Grandal and second baseman Logan Forsythe each rank fifth.
On the mend
Julio Urias, one year removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his throwing shoulder, cranked his fastball up to the 88-mph range in a bullpen workout in Arizona last week and is scheduled to throw two more bullpen sessions this week, Roberts said.
Urias, a 21-year-old left-hander who was regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball before suffering his injury, hopes to return this summer. Roberts said Urias, who went 5-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 big league games, 20 of them starts, in 2016 and 2017, will be built back up as a starter, not a reliever.
“I saw some video and his delivery was clean,” said Roberts. “He looked really good. What that means as far as when he comes back, I really don’t know, but I know that Julio and the guys overseeing things in Arizona are encouraged.”