Having gotten an up-close look at Carter Kieboom in action in Spring Training, second-year skipper Davey Martinez told reporters that it would not be long before the 21-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick was in the majors helping the Washington Nationals, whether at second base, where he’d been getting work, or at short, his natural position.
“He understands what he needs to do,” Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, after Kieboom was assigned to Triple-A Fresno to start the 2019 campaign.
“He doesn’t have to be told to hit the ball the other way to get guys over. He does it. Asking him to go over and play second base, he did it kind of naturally. He still needs a lot of work on turning double plays from that side, but he looked really comfortable and he started getting more comfortable the more he played over there. For me, it’s just a matter of time before you see Carter Kieboom helping us in the big leagues.”
Kieboom put up a .279/.353/.558 line with three doubles, three home runs, six walks, and 10 Ks in 25 games in Grapefruit League action, then went to the Nats’ top minor league affiliate and posted a .379/.506/.636 line, six doubles, a triple, three home runs, 16 walks, and 20 Ks over 18 games before the Nationals made the decision to bring him up to the big leagues as they wait for Trea Turner (broken finger) and Anthony Rendon (elbow contusion) to return to action.
Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline talked on the night of the 2016 Draft about what the Nationals got when they made Kieboom the 28th overall pick.
“He’s a very athletic high school shortstop and I think [he] stays at shortstop,” Kline said.
“It’s an advanced approach at the plate. Very good tools with some above average, some solid average. He’s going to be a really good big leaguer. Good makeup, just has a really good feel for the game, he’s a baseball player.”
With Turner entrenched at short, however, and a need at second base (before they signed Brian Dozier), Kieboom played some second base when he went to the Arizona Fall League following a 2018 campaign in which he’d put a combined .280/.357/.444 line between High-A and Double-A in the Nationals’ system, with 31 doubles, 16 HRs, 58 walks, and 109 Ks in 123 games.
He posted a .295/.427/.372 line with one double, one triple, a home run, 17 walks, and 18 Ks in 21 games in the AFL, while playing both short and second base.
“I see him as an everyday shortstop, that we’re going to teach to play second base,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters when he spoke about Kieboom at the Winter Meetings.
Turner went down with the broken finger in the first week of April, shortly after Kieboom went down to Triple-A, but Rizzo explained at the time that they were going with Wilmer Difo at short until Turner was ready to return.
“We don’t feel that [Kieboom is] ready to play shortstop in the big leagues on an everyday level at this time,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies.
“We’ve seen this before. A couple years ago, Trea got hit on the wrist and was out for a couple months and Difo filled in, and he played great, so we feel that he’s a very, very capable reinforcement over there at shortstop.
“He can really play the position defensively, he’s got good speed as you know, and throws really well, and when he played every day in Trea’s absence he was much more consistent at the plate and had a good year for us. So that’s what we’re hoping to do.
“We want to get Boomer some more reps at shortstop and second base in Triple-A and he’s not too far away, but he’s just not ready just yet.”
Difo put up a .246/.316/.362 line with two doubles, two homers, seven walks, and 17 Ks in 20 games and 19 starts after taking over at short for Turner.
Kieboom played six games at second and 12 games at short for the Nationals’ top affiliate before he was called up today to play shortstop in the majors.
In order to make room on the 25-Man Roster for Kieboom, the Nats optioned Jake Noll to Triple-A, and in order to make room on the 40-Man, Koda Glover was transferred to the 60-Day Injured List.