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Perspective: What’s Behind Carter Kieboom’s Resurgence

Since being called up and becoming the Nationals everyday third baseman, Carter Kieboom has been effective at the plate and on the field. What's behind this recent resurgence?

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Currently, the Nationals starting third baseman is seeing a nice resurgence in his offensive game. Kieboom is currently hitting .246, has an OBP of .335, SLG% of .401, and an OPS of .737. These are not all-star caliber numbers, but they could mean much more to the Nationals. Kieboom was long considered the number one prospect in their farm system and was moved over the third base to be a potential replacement for Anthony Rendon. Kieboom showed great offensive ability in the minors, hitting .303 with 16 home runs in 109 games with Triple-A Fresno in 2019. 

With Carter starting 2021 in Triple-A due to Starlin Castro being the full-time third baseman, he only saw 23 plate appearances from 4/6/21 until 7/31/21. Since the trade deadline, Kieboom has had the chance to play full time at third with 141 plate appearances. The first half sample is small but telling, with Kieboom batting .167 with an OBP of .304 and an SLG% of .167. Kieboom seemed to draw walks at a better clip than now with a 13% BB rate but was hitting for essentially zero power. 

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Transitioning to post-deadline Kieboom, the pressure is off of him and the team with the sell-off and the removal of Starlin Castro, allowing Kieboom the reins to play third full time. In his 141 plate appearances starting August 1st, Kieboom is batting .258, has an OBP of .340, SLG% of .435. One issue is strikeouts, with a K% of 26.8% for the entirety of 2021. Another thing that has not gone unnoticed by Nationals fans is that all six of Kieboom’s home runs have come in the second half of this season. 

Related Article: Perspective: Juan Soto Extension Dreams

What’s even more striking is diving into Carter’s Statcast numbers from this season as well as 2020, his first “full-time” season with the Nationals. 

While Kieboom has not had enough plate appearances to qualify for most of the stats provided, we can see one thing that stands out: increased Exit Velocity from 2020 to 2021. While it isn’t a top-tier statistic for him, going from the 25th to the 46th percentile in the league is a dramatic jump for the young player. The trend of poor EV from 2020 continued into the first half of 2021, where Carter had a hard hit % of only 30.8%. For a reference point, the hard-hit % of Juan Soto for all of 2021 is 53.5%. After his stint in Triple-A paired with consistent playing time for the second half of this season, Kieboom now has a hard hit % of 40.2% since August 1st. Even going back to 2020, his hard-hit % was lower at 20.9%, which was less than Josh Harrison and Asdrubal Cabrera, who also had stints at third base. 


More on Carter Kieboom from the Nats Report


In addition to the increased power Kieboom is experiencing, he has also been able to pull the ball. As you can see from the chart below, Kieboom is expanding and using all parts of the field, which has helped his batting average, which wasn’t happening in 2020.

Images provided via Baseball Savant.com

Another stat that can’t be missed this season is that Kieboom has covered more of the plate. Kieboom has reduced the number of misses at the bottom left side of the plate and has replaced that with more contact. In 2020, Kieboom was only able to contact the ball from pitches on the bottom right side of the plate. However, Kieboom has expanded his zone and made consistent contact from all sides of the plate. 

I say all of this to paint a picture of what Carter Kieboom has been at the major league level and, hopefully, what he can become. 

It will be very tough to become an all-star caliber third baseman like Rendon was in DC. Still, with consistent playing time coupled with the “no stress” baseball that the Nationals are now playing, it isn’t outrageous to expect Kieboom to continue improving his game and making himself a staple in the Nationals’ future. 

It becomes a much more difficult task for Rizzo and Co. to have to replace guys who come from the farm and underperform, so here is hoping that Kieboom can succeed at the highest level for the future. 

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