Welcome to the show, kid.
Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon that the Washington Nationals would be calling up top infield prospect Carter Kieboom, who will be making his MLB debut upon his arrival.
Kieboom isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster, so the Nationals will need to make a few corresponding moves to create space on the depth chart.
Fellow rookie infielder Jake Noll, who was called up Monday to add depth while Anthony Rendon nursed a bruised elbow, was in the lineup at Triple-A Fresno on Thursday night. The next move could involve sending shortstop Trea Turner to the 60-Day Injured List, as there has yet to be a timetable announced for his return from a broken index finger.
Nats general manager Mike Rizzo has a history of only calling up top prospects when they can play every day. With Turner’s replacement Wilmer Difo sporting a .678 OPS with only four extra-base hits, Kieboom could slide into the starting shortstop role until Turner is ready to return. Although he’s considered Washington’s second baseman of the future, Kieboom is a natural shortstop and he’s played a majority of his games in Triple-A there.
In 18 games with the Grizzlies, Kieboom has hit .379 with 16 walks and 10 of his 25 hits going for extra bases. His power numbers have come as a bit of a surprise, as he owns a career slugging percentage of just .471 in the minor leagues — although he did hit 11 homers in 61 games at High-A Potomac last season.
The Nationals have needed a spark offensively, scoring more than six runs just once in their last 12 games. With Rendon out, Washington hasn’t had anyone to anchor the middle of the lineup.
Howie Kendrick had been a pleasant fill-in at the hot corner, but he’s now 2 for his last 15. Brian Dozier still has just one multi-hit game this season. While Adam Eaton’s .313 batting average looks nice, he hits for little power and has a 20/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Neither of the Nats’ catchers have stood out at the plate and Ryan Zimmerman is only getting on base at a clip of .325.
The only two hitters who’ve made a sustained impact are outfielders Victor Robles and Juan Soto, although they’ve each had their struggles as well.
Robles looks like he’s getting more comfortable with the speed of the game at the major-league level but has made several rookie mistakes on the basepaths and leads the team in strikeouts. While Soto has offset his own strikeout problem with a team-high 18 walks, he’s struggled to string hits together and adjust the volume of offspeed pitches he’s received in his second year.
By calling up Kieboom now, the Nationals are signaling they need more out of their offense. Given that Noll was optioned to Triple-A, it’s likely they don’t think Rendon will be out much longer — if at all. It’ll be worth paying attention to how manager Davey Martinez lines the team up in the series opener against the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
If the top of the lineup reads Eaton, Robles, Rendon, Soto for the top four, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kieboom batting ninth to take the pressure off him while he gets acclimated to major-league pitching. Given how well he did against such pitchers in Spring Training, it’ll be exciting to see how quickly he adapts and starts making an impact.