Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Steve Kemp, The Former First Overall Draft Pick

Outfielder Steve Kemp was a can’t-miss prospect coming out of the University of Southern California in 1976. The first player taken in that year’s draft, he went to the Detroit Tigers and embarked on an 11-year major league career that didn’t take him to the Hall of Fame but was very solid nonetheless.

After being drafted, Kemp made quick work of the minor leagues. Hitting .328 with 19 home runs in his lone season for seasoning, he became a starter for the Tigers in 1977. The left-handed 22-year-old acquitted himself nicely, contributing a .257 batting average, 18 home runs and 88 RBIs in 151 games.

In 1979, he made his lone All Star appearance, hitting .318 with 26 home runs and 105 RBIs. It was good enough for 17th place in the MVP voting. Although he was well above average the following year, he never approached the same level of play and was traded to the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1982 season.

Kemp had his last above average season as a regular for the Sox. His .291 batting average and 19 home runs and 98 RBIs in 160 games earned him a fat five-year, 5.45 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees.

Unfortunately, Kemp never clicked in New York. His .306 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching in 1983 mean that he was relegated to more of a platoon role. The next year was much of the same, as he was productive against righties but anemic against southpaws. As his play declined, he also suffered a series of injuries. After bouncing to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers, his big league career was over following the 1988 season.

For his career, Kemp appeared in a total of 1,168 games and hit .278 with 130 home runs and 634 RBIs. He was particularly lethal against future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, has he had 16 hits (including 3 home runs and 6 doubles) in 39 career at-bats against him; good for a .410 batting average.

You can read more about Kemp and his career here and here. Also, keep reading for his answers to some specific questions he answered about his time in the game.

Steve Kemp Questionnaire:

If you could do anything about your career differently, what would that be?: Play in one place.

What was the strangest play you ever saw as a player?: George Brett’s pine tar game.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Ralph Houk.

What team had the best clubhouse food?: Detroit home clubhouse.

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