Carter Kieboom’s name is one Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has mentioned as part of the depth in the organization that makes him comfortable with the options for second if the Nationals don’t add a second baseman via trade or free agency this winter.
The top infield prospect in the Nats’ system ended up at Double-A Harrisburg in 2018 and went out to the Arizona Fall League, where he worked at second, after playing shortstop in his first three major league seasons.
“It was different,” Kieboom said of the experience of playing second base in the AFL, “but it was great. I was glad I got to play, and get some live reps out there, and to play against talent like that that was out there, it’s definitely a quicker game, and I think that’s the closest thing I can get to playing in the big leagues at that position, so to play second base and get all those reps was definitely beneficial for the future.”
The adjustments he had to make?
“I think maybe just the footwork around the base for turning double plays and stuff like that,” Kieboom said.
“You kind of lose momentum over there at second compared to short, but it was a pretty smooth adjustment. We worked with it every morning with [AFL hitting coach Luis Ordaz] and we got to where we wanted to be with it.”
Rizzo mentioning his name as part of the depth in the organization that could fill a need at second, the fact that they moved him there out in Arizona, and the fact that they brought him here to Washington for Winterfest, does it all make it feel like an opportunity is close at hand?
“It always feel good when you receive that sort of positive attention,” Kieboom said. “I think as a player that’s kind of what you hope for in an organization — that they believe in you and they trust in you, and I definitely feel like they have that trust in me up to this point. And I hope to just continue to play well and take care of everything that I need to take care of.”
Kieboom put up a .298/.386/.494 line, 15 doubles, and 11 home runs in 61 games and 285 plate appearances at High-A Potomac, then finished up at .262/.326/.395, with 16 doubles and five home runs in 62 games and 273 PAs at Double-A Harrisburg.
What adjustments, if any, did he have to make between the levels and how different was the competition?
“It wasn’t too big of a jump just because you have Low-A and you have High-A and then you have Double-A,” Kieboom explained, “...and they kind of put those there to make that jump a little easier for you, but to me I think this year the biggest jump was just to be able to play as many games as I did.
“Last year I was cut short a little bit with an injury, but I was very fortunate this year to stay healthy all year and play a long successful season.”
Going into the 2019 campaign, Kieboom said, the goal is to just stay healthy and try to take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of him.
“I think the best player is a healthy player, and if I can stay on the field for as many games as I can I think that’s when I have my most success,” he said.
“So I think whatever happens throughout the year, I think at the end of the year I’ll be where I want to be. As long as I’m maintaining my health and doing all the things I need to do.”
Though he intends to work out at second base this winter, the infielder said he’ll continue to get reps at short so he’s ready for whatever he’s asked to do.
“I think my focus is going to be more towards second base,” he said.
“I haven’t done it in a few years, so I think there’s a little bit more work to be done there in terms of readiness, but I’m going to take a lot of reps at shortstop still, do the same stuff I do every offseason at short, and then at the same time I’m going to add a little more focus to second base.”
There’s also the possibility that he might end up playing with his brother Spencer Kieboom at some point this season, whether it’s at Triple-A (after the Nationals acquired Yan Gomes, and signed Kurt Suzuki) or in the majors if there’s an opportunity.
Have he and his brother talked about potentially playing together?
“We don’t really talk about it,” the younger Kieboom brother said.
“It’s obviously a possibility that we can potentially be together at some point, it would be very cool for us to be together. We don’t really communicate about it, but it’s always in the back of our mind that this could be our one shot that we actually get to do this.
“The age difference has always been tough, so this is a great opportunity for us to be able to do something like that.”
Asked if there was anything he learned or advice he got from his older brother that has helped him as he prepares for what’s ahead, he said it’s all about being prepared, and also taking time to enjoy what you’re doing.
“Just enjoy it,” he said. “Baseball is going to go by quick and you always want to enjoy it.
“And for him, he was in a unique situation where he wasn’t going to play every day and he knew that, but he also never knew when he was going to be called upon, so for him the big thing was to always be ready. You never know when that opportunity was going to arise, and you’re going to need to make a big play or come in the game late in the game for a pinch hitter and catch and stuff like that, so I think the biggest thing I can take away is just be ready at all times.”