The announcement by Davey Martinez on Saturday that Carter Kieboom would be the third baseman for the Washington Nationals when the 2020 season gets underway on July 23rd* was not exactly a revelation.
When the Nationals lost Anthony Rendon to free agency, missed out on the top free agent third baseman, Josh Donaldson, if it can be described that way, and declined to trade top prospects for a hot corner infielder, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the top infield prospect in the organization would be getting a shot, though there were insurance-type signings, with Asdrúbal Cabrera brought back as an option at third.
It was pretty clearly Kieboom’s job to lose, as both Martinez and GM Mike Rizzo suggested in Spring Training 1.0, so the skipper was essentially just stating the obvious when he was asked if the 22-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick would start the 2020 campaign at third when things gets going later this month, and said, “as of right now,” it will be Kieboom at third.
“I anticipate in the 60-game season, he’s going to go out there and play every day,” the manager said.
Kieboom was 5 for 39 (.128/.209/.282) with two homers, four walks, and 16 strikeouts over 11 games and 43 plate appearances when he was called up briefly last season, and he made a total of four errors in ten games in the field before he was sent back down to the minors for the remainder of the 2019 season, which he finished with a .303/.409/.493 line, 24 doubles, three triples, and 16 home runs in 109 games and 494 PAs at Triple-A Fresno.
Martinez said the area of his game they’ve wanted the infielder to work on this Spring, and over the time baseball was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, was his defense.
“We feel like he’s going to hit here,” the Nats’ skipper explained.
“When he left [Bench Coach Tim Bogar] talked to him and [Third Base Coach] Chip [Hale] talked to him about his footwork, and really honing in on his footwork and getting his feet turned to where he’s going to throw at all times. So, I know he’s been working out. I know he’s hit tons, I know he’s faced live pitching.
“Tried to keep in shape the best he can. Tried to do some baseball activities as much as he can.
“So I’m looking forward to getting him back out here and getting him in the group and getting him ready.”
Cabrera, ostensibly Kieboom’s competition at third, though probably more of an insurance policy and backup second and first baseman, and the top infield prospect in the system got to know one another and work together during the first abbreviated Spring workouts back in March, and Martinez said he thinks that relationship will continue now that the players are all back together for Spring Training 2.0, though he said he didn’t know if the two kept talking while everyone waited for word on the start of the new season.
“What I know is that once all this thing transpired in Spring Training,” Martinez said, “guys would just couldn’t believe that we were getting pulled off the field.
“I think a lot of guys just scattered and took off. So I couldn’t tell you if they kept in touch or not. I know though they built a pretty good relationship.
“So once they’re together, they’ll [have] what they had in Spring Training and move on.
“Asdrubal is a great teacher, and I know he looks forward to talking to Carter and he’s done a great job with him, so hopefully they rekindle that relationship and they just keep building that relationship as they move forward.”
[ed. note = “ * = Necessary caveats about when/if they play baseball this season.”]