With the Washington Nationals’ postseason chances diminishing by the day, at some point this season, they will have to begin looking towards the future on the diamond.
A big part of that future will be the team’s top prospect, Carter Kieboom.
The Nationals came into the season with high hopes for the shortstop-turned-third baseman to come into the lineup almost every day and help provide a spark in a lineup that was weakened by the loss of Anthony Rendon during the offseason.
However, he was demoted to the team’s Alternate Training Site last Wednesday with an underwhelming .200/.359/.200 slash line as he was starting to press at the plate.
“When we assessed Carter at the time he was trending downward,” manager Dave Martinez explained on Wednesday. “We wanted to make sure that he didn’t just completely go downhill. We wanted to get him to kind of relax and get as many at-bats as he needs without putting any pressure on himself.
“We’re watching him. He’s actually swinging the bat better. So we’ll see in the next week or so. I’d love to get him back up here and let him play.
“I want him to just gain some confidence again and then when he comes up here see what he can do.”
He might not have much longer to wait for another chance at the big league level.
As our own David Driver first reported earlier today, Kieboom will join up with the Nationals this weekend in Atlanta on the team’s taxi squad, seemingly a precursor to a potential recall.
The young infielder is first eligible to be recalled on Saturday. At that point, the minimum 10-day period an optioned player must be off the active roster, unless they are replacing someone placed on the Injured List, will have elapsed.
There is another factor that may keep him off the roster a little bit longer though: Service time.
With a shortened season, service time in 2020 will be pro-rated. Usually, there are 186 days in a season, but this year, there are only 66 days in the season. So, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan noted at the end of June, the formula to calculate service time this year is as follows: A x (186/66), where A represents the number of days spent on the major league roster in 2020.
If Kieboom were to come up when first eligible on Saturday and stay on the major league roster for the rest of the season, that would add up to 57 days on the active roster this year.
Plug 57 into the above formula and that gets you 160.6, which gets rounded up to 161 days of service time. Add that to the 12 he accumulated last year and that gives you 173 days, one more than the 172 days required to accrue a full year of major league service.
So, say the Nationals don’t recall Kieboom until Sunday, that pro-rated Service Time drops to 158. Add on the 12 days from 2019 and you get 170, just short of the 172 required. How convenient.
We’ve already seen other highly-rated prospects have their service time manipulated this year. The Nats even saw it first-hand when the Toronto Blue Jays waited for six days of the season to pass before calling up Nate Pearson to make his debut in the nation’s capital.
It’s not usually Mike Rizzo and the Nationals’ MO to manipulate service time, but this time, it’s entirely possible that they could be waiting until Sunday to recall Kieboom and give them an extra year of control over one of their top prospects.
Whether he’s called up on Saturday, Sunday, or some other day in the near future, the Nationals just want him to play loose and prove that he will be a big part of their future.
“I just think Carter needs to go out on the field and have fun,” Johnny DiPuglia told Jon Morosi and Brad Lidge on MLB Network Radio last week.
“Have a smile on his face, play the game like he played when he was in high school and back in the minor leagues, not to put too much pressure on him. He’s playing with three other kids that have a lot of fun, he just needs to follow their lead and I think he’ll be fine.
“He needs just to go down [to Fredericksburg] and readjust himself, look himself in the mirror and then get him back up there and have him be the piece that we need to try to win another World Series here.”