With new additions to their lineup in Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber and their mainstays of the last few years in Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, etc., the Washington Nationals have quite the roster makeup going into the 2021 season. Although the signings of Bell and Schwarber are solid additions to the lineup, Washington is losing something on the defensive side of the game. This comes as the Nats are still trying to replace the bat and glove of one of the top-three third baseman in baseball in Anthony Rendon, who left via free agency after the 2019 season. Insert the kid, Carter Kieboom.
A first-round pick in 2016, Kieboom was called up for a short time in 2019 to help out at shortstop due to a Trea Turner injury and showed some signs of life at the plate despite defensive struggles. Fast forward to the 60-game sprint that was the 2020 season. In Spring Training, Dave Martinez confidently stated that the starting job in the hot corner would be Kieboom’s to lose, but Asdrubal Cabrera got the start over him on Opening Day. Kieboom had a season mostly full of disappointment, but that’s not to say there is no hope for him in that spot.
In all, Kieboom has 165 plate appearances batting .181, with a.309 OBP, a .282 SLG%, and an OPS of .541. Not at all ideal for a starting third baseman, especially one who is replacing one of the best in the game. Taking a look at his defensive play, the 23-year-old has 41 games with seven errors and a fielding percentage of .945, just below the league average of .963 through 2019 and 2020. Cutting down on errors over a 162-game season and making the easy plays will go a long way in cementing Kieboom as a solid everyday third baseman.
Now the toughest part of this story: offense. The right-handed hitting Kieboom has shown some pop off the bat, but it has not translated into consistent performance. Last season, he did end up with a pretty significant groin injury that we were unaware of as well. I do believe that working with hitting coach Kevin Long, offseason LASIK surgery and having a normal offseason should help immensely with him improving at the plate. Plus, one thing Rizzo constantly reinforces is that Kieboom has a major-league ready bat. Taking a rough look at the top 20 third basemen and averaging out the stats of numbers 10 and 11, we can paint a picture of what a top half/ average third baseman should give us at the plate.
What I came up with were these numbers (2019 and 2020):
- AVG: .262
- OBP: .334
- SLG%: .469
- OPS: .795
Kieboom over this same time frame, as mentioned above, was:
- AVG: .181
- OBP: .309
- SLG%: .232
- OPS: .541
On the surface, Kieboom appears to have a long way to go to hit some of these benchmarks, BUT Dave Martinez would be doing him and the team a disservice if he wasn’t given a chance to improve under semi-normal circumstances in 2021. Given what they already had and have added this offseason, if he can give the Nationals a production level similar to what the “average” third baseman does, they should be set up to have a very productive lineup.