The Nationals have been impressed with the growth and ability of catcher Spencer Kieboom. The fifth-round selection in 2012 was placed on the 40-man roster November 20, 2015, alongside left-hander Nick Lee and infielder Chris Bostick. Kieboom is currently a catcher at Double-A Harrisburg.
And staying in the family to begin the 2016 First-Year Player Draft, the Nationals selected Spencer’s little brother, shortstop Carter Kieboom, out of Walton (Ga.) high school.
Carter was selected with the 28th-overall pick. That pick was given to the Nationals as compensation for right-hander Jordan Zimmermann signing with the Detroit Tigers.
Carter is the first position player the Nationals have selected with their first selection in the draft since they picked Anthony Rendon out of Rice with their top pick in 2011. Like his older brother, Carter had signed a letter of intent to attend Clemson University on a baseball scholarship. He projects as a power third baseman.
The last time the Nationals drafted a high school position player in first round was 2007, when they selected Michael Burgess (supplemental first round).
Assistant general manager and vice president, scouting operations Kris Kline said they were impressed by Carter Kieboom from the outset and even had a private workout with him to confirm their enthusiasm about his baseball talent.
“He’s a very athletic high school shortstop,” Kline said. “I think he stays at shortstop. He has an advanced approach at the plate, very good tools with a solid average. He’s going to be a really good big leaguer. Good makeup. Just has a really good feel for the game. He’s a baseball player.”
More on Carter Kieboom from the Nationals:
“Kieboom, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound infielder, is considered one of the best prep hitters in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft after hitting .366 (37-for-101) with nine doubles, two triples, five home runs, 37 RBI, 24 walks, seven stolen bases and 39 runs scored for Walton High School in Marietta, Ga. He posted a .504 on-base percentage and a .644 slugging percentage during his senior season.”
With the 29th-overall pick, the Nationals selected right-hander Dane Dunning out of the University of Florida. The Dunning pick was compensation for shortstop Ian Desmond signing with the Texas Rangers.
Dunning is 6-foot-3 and 205 lbs. He was last drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 34th round of the 2013 draft. Dunning pitched at Clay High School, less than an hour away from the Gators’ Gainesville campus.
Florida (50-13) is currently in the Gainesville Super Regional matchup with rival Florida State for a chance to go to Omaha and the College World Series. Their staff ERA is 3.02.
Dunning is 5-3 with two saves and a 2.50 ERA in 29 appearances (five game starts). In 68 1/3 innings, he has recorded 78 strikeouts and only 11 walks. Dunning was used out of the bullpen a lot by the Gators, but Kline envisions a starter role.
“Definitely going to develop him as a starter,” Kline said. “He’s coming from one of the best college staffs in baseball right now. Dane, if he was at another program, he would’ve easily been the Friday night starter for 95 percent of the other teams in the country. He has a really good delivery and really good stuff.”
More from the Nationals on Dunning:
“He was named to the Rawlings/Perfect Game preseason second-team Florida All-Region prior to his senior year. As a senior at Clay, he earned all-state honors in Class 5A and was the school’s Athlete of the Year after going 5-2 with a 1.27 ERA.”
Update: The Nationals selected University of Oklahoma third baseman Sheldon Neuse with their second-round pick (58th overall). Out of Fort Worth, Tex., Neuse is a 6-foot, 195 lbs. corner infielder who can also pitch.
Neuse hit .369 in 55 games for the Sooners this season, with 15 doubles, five triples, 10 homers and 48 RBIs. As a right-handed pitcher, Neuse was 4-1 with five saves and a 1.40 ERA in 14 appearances.
National/Midwest crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales said Neuse brings a lot of tools to the table for the Nationals. They project Neuse at third base.
“He played shortstop at Oklahoma, we see him moving over to third,” Gonzales said. “Good bat, got power, catches the baseball. Hadn’t made any errors the last two years. Really good throwing arm, super ballplayer, great kid. Really like the makeup on him, overall good package there.
With the surprising number of high school players selected early on, Kline said he was never nervous they would not be able to get the players they coveted as the first round rolled along.
“I think we got who we targeted,” Kline said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We identified Carter and Dane early in the year. We feel very fortunate to get both of those guys. And then Neuse kind of fell in our lap, we really liked him, too. So far, so good. Tomorrow will be another big day for us.”
Kline also believes there are no signability issues with these first three selections.
“I feel very confident that we’ll get them all done before the deadline, yes,” he said.