With everyday shortstop Trea Turner on the Injured List and Wilmer Difo underwhelming as the Washington’s fill-in at short, the Nationals saw an opportunity to give 21-year-old Carter Kieboom a chance to test the water in the majors and see what he could do as part of the big league lineup.
“He’s performed admirably at the Triple-A level,” GM Mike Rizzo explained after the 2016 1st Round pick was called up on April 26th.
“With Trea still being weeks away, not months, but weeks away,” Rizzo continued, “... we felt that it not only will get one of our best prospect’s feet wet in the big leagues, give him some experience, but it also strengthens a strength of ours in putting Wilmer Difo back into a more comfortable role of being that super-utility player that can play multiple positions and help us off the bench.
“We are excited to see [Kieboom] in his big-league debut and like we do usually with our top prospects, he’s going to play a lot and we’re going to be excited to see him perform.“
Kieboom did play a lot when he was up, but he struggled after getting off to a strong start, and in the final eight games before he was optioned back to Triple-A on Wednesday, went just 2 for 27 (.074/.167/.074) with three walks and 11 Ks in 30 plate appearances.
He committed a total of four errors at shortstop to go along with some misplays/mistakes that did not get ruled errors over the last few weeks.
Kieboom acknowledged as much when he spoke to reporters after a rough night at the plate (0 for 4) and in the field (second error in two games) in the series opener with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
“The way I’ve been playing is unacceptable,” Kieboom said. “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.”
Manager Davey Martinez had the same advice for the young infielder, who might end up at second in the future in D.C., with Turner firmly entrenched at short and under team control for years.
“He’s 21 years old,” Martinez said. “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. I saw a lot of good things. 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.”
Before he was called up, Kieboom, in his first taste of Triple-A ball, posted a .379/.506/.636 line with six doubles, a triple, three home runs, 16 walks, and 20 Ks over 18 games, and he returns to Fresno with a good idea of what he needs to work on to be ready for his next shot in the big leagues.
“We just want him to just relax,” Martinez added. “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.”
“There are a lot of good players in this game that have been optioned before and come back and done really well,” Martinez added, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jim Hoehn.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world, this organization does. He’s one of our top prospects. He goes down there, gets back to playing and [can] kind of relax a little bit. I told him, the biggest [thing] is just do the simple things and go back to fundamentals. I said, you’re going to be back, and he’s going to be back for a long time.”
Will he rebound from the rough stretch in the majors? Struggle for a while now that he’s been sent back to Triple-A? Learn from and build on his first big league exposure?
While Kieboom’s issues were apparent, there were some good signs from the infielder... what are your takeaways from Kieboom’s first stint in the Nationals’ lineup?