This season, Kieboom, 27, has demonstrated the biggest key element for young catchers working with Nats pitchers: being able to call the game to give that pitcher the best chance to succeed. He played one game for the Nats in 2016. This season, he has appeared in 47 games. Kieboom was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 amateur draft. So this season is a big deal for Kieboom.
“I like the fact that he really matured as a catcher and understands the game, and understands calling games and working with our pitchers,” Martinez said. “He’s done a great job in doing that. His defense has been incredible, throwing runners out. Back-picking guys, all that stuff. He’s gotten really, really better at that.”
Kieboom has hit a couple of homers and had times when he was connecting well at the plate. If the Nationals can get Kieboom’s bat going, it would be an advantage that they have not enjoyed as much as they would have liked from that spot in the lineup the last couple of seasons.
“His offense is going to get better,” Martinez continued. “He understands what he needs to do and starting to understand what kind of hitter he should be, and that’s a guy that stays on the ball. Hits the ball all over the field, stays in the middle of the field. I really like what he’s done this year. I’ve watched him grow into becoming a really good catcher this year.”
Other teams have challenged Kieboom’s arm and his ability to throw runners out from his knees, and he’s shown tremendous upper body strength. Martinez has no problem with Kieboom throwing from that position instead of jumping up and throwing on both legs. He says Kieboom recognizes when to pick his spots to throw from his knees.
“I like it. He understands when he can and when he can’t,” Martinez said. “He knows who’s pitching and what the times are and when he needs to stay down on his knees and throw the ball. He throws the ball really well.”
He’s caught 46 percent of runners trying to steal (11-for-24). His fielding percentage is .989 with three errors and two passed balls in 285 chances.
If Kieboom push his .207 career batting average up to around .250 and cash in more runners in scoring position, it will be an advantage the Nats would relish from their backup catching spot.