Carter Kieboom, the Washington Nationals’ 2016 1st Round pick, (28th overall), made his MLB debut back on April 26th, and the 22-year-old infielder homered in his first game, but things didn’t go too well for the shortstop after that.
Kieboom ended up going 5 for 43 (.128/.209/.282) with two home runs, four walks, and 16 Ks in 43 plate appearances over 11 games before he was optioned back to Triple-A Fresno.
He also made four errors in 10 games in the field while he was up. looking at times like he was pressing as he tried to adjust to major league game speed.
The demotion, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez explained at the time, wasn’t that big a deal, especially for a young player.
“He’s 21 years old,” Martinez told reporters in May (before Kieboom turned 22 in September). “We brought him up here in necessity, because we were beat up. He was doing well in Triple-A, and we wanted to really get his feet wet and get him an opportunity to come up here and see what it’s all about, you know, and like I said, he’ll be back, no doubt.”
There were, however, positives to take from Kieboom’s first test in the big leagues.
“I saw a lot of good things,” Martinez offered.
“Like I said, he’s very poised. He understands. We had a good conversation. He has a plan about what he needs to do when he goes back down, and I told him stick to the plan and get you ready and get you up here again.”
As for what the second-year skipper and former major league outfielder suggested that the Nationals’ infield prospect work on?
“We just want him to just relax,” Martinez said. “He’s done really well in the minor leagues, but then again, he’s only had 200-and-something at bats at a higher level, so just go back down there and just go play, play every day, ease your mind, you know, and get ready to come back up here.”
Kieboom acknowledged that things didn’t go as he wanted them to go while he was with the Nationals.
“The way I’ve been playing is unacceptable,” he said after he learned he’d been optioned out.
“I mean, by all means, all these plays that I’ve missed are plays that I need to make, and usually do make.
“There’s no excuse as to why they’re not being made, it’s just the fact of the matter is that’s what’s happened and all I can do is learn from it and better myself going forward.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, after Kieboom was sent back down, that his development was still a work in progress.
“Struggled defensively,” Rizzo said. “His offense was always ahead of his defense, we knew that bringing him up, we brought him up by necessity, but the good thing is he’s a young, bright, 21-year-old player with a great baseball IQ. He’s got crazy-good talent and tools. The good thing is we got his feet wet, he’s been to the big leagues, so oftentimes the next time you get here you’re not nearly as overwhelmed and the game slows down quite a bit your second time here. So, he’s a big part of the future here, he’s going to be here for a long time, and we think that he has a good long career as an everyday player for us in the very, very near future, and to me he’s one of the best prospects in the game.”
Kieboom finished his fourth season in the Nationals’ system with a .303/.409/.493 line, 24 doubles, three triples, and 16 home runs in 109 games and 494 PAs with Washington’s top minor league affiliate.
When he played in the All-Star Futures Game in July, he told reporters, as quoted by NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas, that he’d learned a lot in his short time in the majors.
“I learned more [in] my two weeks up there, than I learned in a while,” Kieboom said. “It was nothing but positives to take away from that stint I had up there.”
“Failure’s a part of the game,” Kieboom added. “Sometimes you fail more than you’d like.
“It’s just a matter of sticking with what you know, continuing to play your game and good things will happen.
“I took all positives from the stint up there. Nothing negative.”
Kieboom split time between short (62 games), second (41), and third base (10) at Triple-A, but where he ends up in the majors is still a question.
Will Anthony Rendon be back at third? Who’s going to play second in D.C. in 2020? Trea Turner doesn’t appear likely to be going anywhere any time soon, so short’s probably not the spot.
Will the Nationals try to find a second baseman to bridge the gap until Kieboom is ready (like they did with Brian Dozier this past winter) now that Dozier, Howie Kendrick, and Asdrúbal Cabrera, who had the majority of starts at second this season, are all free agents, with their future in D.C., if there is any, still to be determined.
Are the Nationals ready to add another early-20s player to the lineup along with Juan Soto and Victor Robles, or will they go another direction while Kieboom continues to develop?