Looking back on his 2020 campaign in late September, shortly after it ended with a bone bruise on his hand, the result of a hit-by-pitch, Carter Kieboom, Washington’s 23-year-old, 2016 first round pick, said that there were positives to take from his .202/.344/.212 run in the 60-game COVID campaign, which he finished at -0.3 fWAR in 33 games and 122 plate appearances.
“I was very happy with the way defense went this year,” Kieboom said, after moving from short to third base where there was a spot/need on the Nationals’ big league roster.
“It was a new position and that was my big challenge to myself this year, was learning that position and trying to maintain it and play it to the best I can.”
“From an [offensive] standpoint,” he added, “obviously it was not the way I wanted it to go, but I learned a lot, I’m getting more and more comfortable.”
Did he show enough for the Nationals to count on him to man third base in 2021? Will he be competing for the spot in Spring Training?
Carter Kieboom is the No. 21 prospect in @MLB.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 31, 2020
Carter Kieboom flashed the leather.
Carter Kieboom showed off his wheels.
Carter Kieboom has reached base in 6 straight PA.
Carter Kieboom is tonight's Player of the Game.@carterkieboom // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/6CqLj7lbCf
“He’s definitely got to compete,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters when he spoke on a Zoom call earlier this week.
“One thing I can say — I sat back as I always do at the end of the year, and I looked at everything, and believe it or not, his defense was really, really good.
“We moved him around, he played a lot more on the second base side because of the shifting but he’s definitely gotten a lot better.”
Moving around the infield as he has on the way up, Kieboom said in September, helped him when he ended up around second in defensive shifts.
“It helps tremendously,” he explained. “Nowadays — on the scorecard I’m a third baseman, but you play teams like the [Tampa Bay] Rays for example, and they’ve got seven lefties in the lineup, six lefties in the lineup on a given night, you’re going to be playing majority second base in a sense, so double play depth of a second baseman. So, it definitely helped me a lot. It’s all different angles, and the more you can get used to those angles and the stuff like that, and the balls off the bat, it starts to become second nature, and that’s kind of how I felt with the second base this year, I felt like I didn’t feel out of place at all. I didn’t feel like I was in a shift, you could say, I felt like I was just playing second base.
“With that kind of mindset and that attitude towards it, I felt very comfortable and I didn’t really have a problem going back and forth.”
His struggles at the plate, however, did lead to him being sent down to the club’s Alternate Training camp in Fredericksburg, Virginia at one point, though his manager said the club is still confident in Kieboom’s ability to contribute at the big league level going into 2021.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in this kid,” Martinez said of the top infield prospect in the organization going into the 2020 campaign.
“I think he’s going to be fine, but he’s got to believe that in himself and he’s got to go out there and he’s got to take charge and he’s got to want the job. I’m behind him 100% and I’ve talked to him and I’ve told him, and I said, ‘Hey, you’re our future third baseman, and the future is now. So you’ve got to come to Spring Training and be ready to go. The job is yours but you’ve got to earn it.’ So he knows that. Moving forward hopefully he comes to Spring Training raring to go.”
[ed. note - “Also, there’s this speculation...”]:
Nats have talked to the Reds about 3B Eugenio Suarez. Nothing imminent or believed anywhere close. Kieboom would make sense in a package. Prospects the Nats don’t want to deal: Rutledge, Cavalli, Garcia.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2020