Davey Martinez has talked at length about the work Carter Kieboom did over the winter and early in Spring Training since arriving at Spring Training, and Kieboom himself shared some of the details of the training he did this offseason after allowing the wrist injury which had ended his 2020 campaign to heal up. Neither of them mentioned the fact that Kieboom had apparently undergone LASIK surgery in the offseason.
In a Zoom call with reporters earlier this month, Washington Nationals’ hitting coach Kevin Long mentioned that Kieboom, the 23-year-old, 2016 first round pick, underwent the procedure after he struggled at the dish during 2020’s 60-game COVID season, going 20 for 99 with one extra base hit, a double, 17 walks, and 33 strikeouts in 122 PAs.
According to Long, Kieboom came into camp with a bit more confidence than he’d shown in his previous stints in the big leagues.
“He’s got a different feel about him. He’s much more confident than I expected him to come into Spring Training being,” Long explained.
“He’s loose, he’s — I like the way he’s going about it right now, and that’s just from a confidence and just looking at him standpoint. He seems to be in a much better spot than I ever saw him in last year. He did some stuff with his eyes, and he’s seeing the ball better. He’s not like squinting and apparently the LASIK that he had is working. His swing, putting his hands back and getting into a better position. He looks good. So we’ll continue to monitor Carter and see where he’s at. But mentally, which I think is more important than anything right now, he’s in a very, very good position. He’s very, very positive and upbeat. He’s bringing energy and life every single day.
“I think that’s half the battle and we’re seeing that from him.”
In four minor league seasons since the Nationals drafted the infielder out of high school in Marietta, GA, Kieboom has put up a combined .287/.378/.469 line, with 79 doubles, eight triples, and 45 home runs, but those numbers haven’t translated to the major leagues early in his career.
GM Mike Rizzo expressed confidence in Kieboom and what the Nationals’ scouts saw in him when he discussed the infielder’s early issues at the big league level.
“I’m not going to judge any player off — what 140 plate appearances in his major league career,” Rizzo said early in Spring Training this year.
“We see him as a guy with great upside for us, that is going to be a really good player for us.”
“We have confidence in Kieboom that he’s going to be a good player,” Rizzo added.
“We’ve got too many guys with too many eyes on him that think he’s going to be a really good big league player.”
A few weeks later, Rizzo said he’s been impressed with the early returns on the work that Kieboom put in this offseason.
“I like where he’s at and the tweaks he made with his swing I think are coming around. I’ve seen him take some pitches the other way with authority this Spring Training,” he explained.
“Defensively, his footwork, he’s much more comfortable with his footwork, and I think he’s putting in in the work to prepare for this season, and, actually, I really like where he’s at at this point in Spring Training. I know that we want to get him some more at bats, that could be at the big league stadium or on the back fields.
“He’s a guy that we’re going to want to give a lot of preseason at bats before the big league season starts.”
When it does start, all signs point to Kieboom handling the hot corner in the nation’s capital again this year.
Kieboom said upon arriving at the club’s Spring Training facilities in West Palm Beach, that he felt he was getting there offensively at times in 2020, but never quite put it all together.
“I was playing with a lot of stuff in the shortened season,” he explained.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to really, like you do in an offseason, to really kind of hit the nail on the head in a sense. I think I was just tweaking with a lot of other stuff, that at the end of the day, it was not the right fix for me. I was close. There were times I was like, ‘Man, I’m really close. I can feel it. This is what I always feel.’ And get back to that spot, and then it’s just — shortened season, whatever happens, happens. But this is — I would say, my best offseason yet. I feel definitely the most prepared coming into this year, and we’re going to take advantage of the opportunities.”