At the beginning of Spring Training, Manager Davey Martinez said that he wanted Carter Kieboom to play “like the job is his.” However, as Spring Training has progressed, Kieboom’s struggles at the plate may cost him the starting job at third base. At least it looked that way on Tuesday, when Starlin Castro got the start over Kieboom at third base for the first time this Spring.
We want to be clear; we hope that Kiebooom gets the starting job and performs well during the season. Washington’s scouting department believed the 23-year-old Kieboom had the tools to be an everyday player in the Majors, otherwise they wouldn’t have used a first-round pick on him in the 2016 draft. But he has to put the tools together to make it happen, and, on a team trying to win right away, he might not have the time to do it.
In a Tuesday Zoom press conference, Davey Martinez said, “He knows that [he had to compete for a spot] coming in here… I’m a Carter fan, everybody knows that. But he still has to go out there and do his job and he knows that. So this doesn’t mean anything… Carter is gonna get an opportunity to play third base so we’ll see how it looks like and this is the last week so we gotta hone in on some things. No decisions have been made yet but we wanna make sure that we take the 26 best guys that we can possibly take.”
Kieboom has not performed well at the plate this Spring, hitting .171 with 11 strikeouts and just two walks in 37 plate appearances. These numbers left the Washington Nationals searching for a possible Plan B at third base.
What should the Nationals do at third base with Opening Day just more than a little of a week away? Dependable veteran Starlin Castro is looking more and more like the Opening Day third baseman instead of Kiebooom.
Besides getting the start at third base on Tuesday. Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports Washington was reporting that the 31-year-old Castro has” spent a few days taking reps at the position in practice…”
(Related Article: The Curious Case of Carter Kieboom; The Prospect that the Nationals Need)
According to Baseball Reference.com, Castro spent time at third base in 2019 with the Miami Marlins. During the 2019 season, he played 45 games at third base and posted a .963 fielding %, with 76 assists and four errors in 366 2/3 innings. On top of that, he has been performing well at the plate during Spring Training. Castro has 30 at-bats over 11 Spring games and has ten hits, including two doubles, a triple, and home run. He’s posted an impressive .333 average, a .375 on-base percentage and a .567 slugging percentage. His OPS of .942 is the type of production the Nationals need from their third baseman if they want to compete in the division.
During this afternoon’s game, Castro had some impressive plays at third base. One came in the bottom of the fifth, where he fielded a hard hit from deep third base and threw out the batter at first by a hair.
So what’s going to happen if Castro shifts from playing second base to third base? Well, this might give up and coming Nationals infield prospect Luis García a chance to start at second base, which would be a great idea. García had played second base at the major league level already when he filled in for Castro after a season-ending broken left wrist, so García might get a second chance to make an impression this season if Kieboom does not get the starting job.
Of course, this scenario depends on the health of Castro, who was lifted for a pinch runner after going first-to-third on a Kyle Schwarber double in today’s game. Todd Dybas is reporting that Castro “felt a little cramp in his hamstring when running the bases.” Mark Zuckerman reported that after the game, Davey Martinez stated about Castro, “I’m glad he’s OK.” However, he went on to say that Castro is “day-to-day”.
The way things are going, it’s going to be an interesting final week in Spring Training.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux