Kemp follows Altuve's 5-foot-6 footsteps to Astros

May 16th, 2016

BOSTON -- Tony Kemp's Nashville, Tenn., homecoming turned out to be more memorable than even he could have imagined.

Kemp, who was raised outside Music City and attended college at Vanderbilt, was with dozens of family members, friends and former teachers over the weekend for his first trip home as a professional when Triple-A Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco told him following Sunday's loss to pack his bags. He was going to the big leagues.

"It was a special moment, even a more special moment being in Nashville and having my family and friends and teachers being able to be a part of that moment with me," Kemp told "It was pretty cool."

The Astros announced Monday they were calling up the 5-foot-6 Kemp to replace outfielder Preston Tucker, who was optioned to Fresno on Sunday. Kemp, the club's No. 14 prospect according to, was hitting .298/.410/.405 in 34 games at Fresno. He also had stolen four bases, four triples and drew 21 walks while striking out 22 times. He will join the team Tuesday in Chicago.

Kemp has split time between the outfield and second base in Fresno, but he will play primarily the outfield with the Astros. A left-handed bat, Kemp sprays the balls to all fields.

Altuve/Kemp create diminutive dynamic duo

"He's probably the most consistent performer at Triple-A this year," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's got some speed; he's got some versatility and can play some outfield. I really feel like he's the right guy to inject onto the team right now. Hopefully, he'll get some starts and a chance to show us what he can do."

Kemp, who finished his communications degree from Vanderbilt last year while he was in the Astros' system, had so many people to accommodate in Nashville that he made a spreadsheet to make sure nobody got left out. Kemp was visiting with his contingent after Sunday's game when teammate Nolan Fontana informed him DeFrancesco wanted to have a meeting.

"Nolan Fontana came up to me and said, 'I don't want to be that guy, but Tony D. wants to have a meeting,'" Kemp said. "I understood. And I was talking to some of my old teachers and friends and family, and I told them I would be right back.

"As I ran up the stairs and I finally sat down, Tony D. kind of joked with me and said, 'Did you get to talk to all your fans?' I said, 'No, but I'll go back out there.' That's when he said, 'You're going to have to tell them you can't put them on the pass list tomorrow because you're going to meet the team in Chicago.'"

The first person Kemp told when he emerged from the clubhouse was his brother, Corey, a former Minor League player in the Brewers' system. The emotions overflowed. His parents, Rick and Cathy, were also there.

"It was a pretty cool experience and something I'll never forget," he said.

The 24-year-old Kemp was the club's fifth-round pick in the 2013 Draft. Because of his height (5-foot-6) and natural position (second base), Kemp has drawn comparisons to All-Star Jose Altuve. With Kemp joining Altuve on the Astros, Houston now has two of the three active Major Leaguers listed at 5-foot-6; San Diego's Alexi Amarista is the other.

Tucker, 25, was hitting .176 with 26 strikeouts in 33 games for the Astros this season.