Kemp Has His Eye on A's Second Base Job

John Hickey

A year ago, the A’s were hoping that the acquisition of Jurickson Profar meant that hole in the Oakland lineup at second base had been plugged.

Umm. Not so much. Profar never found himself after coming over from the Rangers, not getting his average over .200 to stay until the first week of June. So now when you look for Profar in the A’s camp now, who you see is catcher Austin Allen, the player Oakland picked up from San Diego when the sent Profar south in a trade.

This time around, the A’s have a bundle of options at second, including Tony Kemp, a utility man trying to find a permanent home after bouncing around with the Astros and Cubs. Franklin Barreto, who has been on the Las Vegas-to-Oakland shuttle for a while now and Jorge Mateo also figure to get long looks in Mesa, AZ.

And there is always a chance that super utility guy Chad Pinder brushes them all aside. If you need a longshot for the competition, it would be Rule 5 pickup Vimael Machin, a lefty who either has to make the team or be returned to the Cubs, his former organization.

But Kemp, a left-handed batter whose prowess as an on-base machine in the minor leagues has yet to show itself in the big leagues, is worth watching. Is he ready to make a breakthrough?

He got his first Cactus League action of the spring Sunday at HoHoKam Stadium on a split-squad day when half of the A’s were on the road against the Diamondbacks at the Talking Stick complex.

Kemp is excited for the opportunity, and while he’s not setting goals for himself, he’s not above setting goals for the team as a whole.

“I would not say for myself (in terms of goals), but I would say for this team, one main goal is to win the division,” Kemp said. “Obviously we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but let’s take one game at a time and see where that takes us.

“I’m excited to get going with this ball club, it seems like they have a lot of good qualities that lead to a lot of hard work.”

In his debut against the Giants on Sunday, that work paid off. He went 2-for-3 with a solo homer. It came in the fifth inning and tied the game at 3-all, although the A's would go on to lose, 5-4

He split time last year between the Astros and the Cubs, finishing at .212/.291/.380 with eight homers and 29 RBI in 110 games. For his big league career, he’s averaged .233 over parts of four seasons.

Kemp, 28, is not a huge guy, just 5-foot-6, but his background is solid. He played with former A’s starter Sonny Gray on the first Vanderbilt team to make it to the College World Series. Kemp was an outfielder then, but he’s expanded his repertoire to encompass playing the second base. The A’s are well-enough stocked in the outfield, so second base it is.