Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked over the final weekend of the 2020 regular season about what he saw from rookie infielder Carter Kieboom during the 60-game COVID campaign, (which saw the 23-year-old, 2016 1st round pick post a .202/.344/.212 line, one double, 17 walks, and 33 Ks in 33 games and 122 plate appearances), and what Kieboom needed to work on as he prepared for 2021.
Kieboom struggled at the plate, experienced some growing pains as he adjusted to third base, and was sent down to the Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, VA at one point, but Martinez said it was a good learning experience for the top prospect in the Nationals’ system going into the 2020 season.
“He’s never struggled in the past,” Martinez said of the infielder who has a .287/.378/.469 line in four minor league seasons, but a .181/.309/.232 line in 44 games and 165 PAs in an extremely small sample size so far in the majors.
“For me it’s about getting back to who you are and knowing who you are,” Martinez said, “... and don’t try to make like big adjustments, just make very simple adjustments.
“That’s something that we’ve talked about, something that he’s going to work on this winter, and just keep it simple.”
“There was definitely some positives to take away from this season,” Kieboom told reporters when he spoke in late September, after a hand injury ended his season prematurely.
“I was very happy with the way defense went this year,” he added of the move from short to third where there was a need at the big league level following Anthony Rendon’s departure via free agency last winter.
“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.
“I was very happy with the way that went, and the success and all the stuff that I’ve worked on and all the failure, and learn from those mistakes.
“I was very pleased with the way that went. From an [offensive] standpoint, obviously it was not the way I wanted it to go, but I learned a lot, I’m getting more and more comfortable.”
Martinez was clear that, at that point at least, Kieboom was going to be the third baseman in the nation’s capital in 2021, when he’d get another opportunity to lock down the corner infield spot.
“I told him,” Martinez explained, “... I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to get an opportunity to come here and do it again. Unfortunately, your season ended with a hand injury, nothing you can do about it, so but let’s work this winter, get stronger, keep working on your defense, and come back in Spring Training ready to go.’”
There have been rumors of interest in third basemen this winter (or one third baseman, Kris Bryant, in particular), but barring a move for a corner infielder, Kieboom will be back at third base in 2021.
The public support for Kieboom is coming from the front office as well as the skipper.
GM Mike Rizzo, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, said he still thinks the kid will figure it out and the club still have confidence in his ability.
“He’s a guy that we have great faith in, we have high expectations for, and we felt that his game came a long way in 2019 and ‘20,” Rizzo said. “Learning a new position at the major league level, we’ve got high hopes for him. We think he’s going to be a great player for us. If you look at the very small sample size early in his career, Anthony Rendon went through the same thing, several players go through the same thing early in their career. If you start judging people by 100-200 major league at bats, when they’re starting to play a new position in the league, you’d be in trouble, and we’re certainly not going to do that, we have all the confidence in the world in him, and we think he’s going to be a hell of a player.”