Prospect looks up to Altuve, could be called up after All-Star break
By Richard Justice
CINCINNATI -- And that's why the Houston Astros love Tony Kemp. In one afternoon, it was all on display.
This is also why he seems likely to be in the Major Leagues very soon, especially if the Astros continue to have trouble scoring runs.
How can Tony Kemp help them?
Let's count the ways.
First, he gets on base.
In 80 games at Double-A and Triple-A this season, he has a .414 on-base percentage and a .817 OPS.
In three plate appearances Sunday afternoon at the SiriusXM Futures Game, he walked twice and hustled around the bases to score a run for the U.S. team, which defeated the World team, 10-1.
Defense? He turned a nice double play while playing second base.
Energy? Kemp wore an MLB Network microphone during the game and was a chatterbox. He talked up umpires, teammates, coaches and opposing players. He let them know he was happy they'd been invited to a showcase event.
And as he said at one point, "I'm happy to be here, too."
Sometimes, things work out for the good guys, too.
Because Kemp is only 5-foot-6, he has had a few doubters along the way. When he graduated high school in Franklin, Tenn., he had just two scholarship offers -- Vanderbilt and East Carolina.
He became part of a star-studded cast at Vanderbilt that included Sonny Gray and led the Commodores to their first appearance in the College World Series.
When the Astros took Kemp in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft, he saw the opportunity he'd been looking for.
Kemp has sailed through the system, reaching Double-A at the end of his second season and getting a promotion to Triple-A on June 11.
Next stop: the Astros.
Wait, don't the Astros have the defending American League batting champion playing second base for them?
"That guy means the world to me," Kemp said. "I got to talk to him in Spring Training two or three times. Just the caliber player he is, the kind of guy he is. He's charismatic. You want to be around that guy.
"He creates a winning atmosphere for teams. Just being able to talk to him and understanding his mentality going onto the baseball field, it really has helped me. I look up to him every day."
Like Altuve, Kemp isn't the tallest player on most teams. But like Altuve, he's blessed with a quick bat and an understanding of what he can and can't do.
The Astros have cleared the way for him to play in the big leagues by playing him in the outfield for 19 games.
"Going to Vanderbilt, I was an outfielder," Kemp said. "I only played second for about three years. When I go back to the outfield, it's like riding a bike."
At a time when the Astros have scored seven runs in their past six games, they will be considering their options for their post-All-Star-break roster.
Kemp said he doesn't waste time thinking about it.
"Of course, that's the goal," he said. "But you have to take it a day at a time. You check the lineup card and see if you're in the infield or the outfield. You've got to keep it simple. You can't think too much. That's when things start going south."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.