Shortstop Carter Kieboom advanced to Double-A in 2018 within the Nationals organization. The 2016 first-round selection was also invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League. His team, the Salt River Rafters, advanced to the title game. Kieboom got some playing time at second base for the first time in his professional career. He hit .295 with a .427 on-base percentage in the AFL over 21 games.
Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba said the organization wanted to get Kieboom valuable experience at the position in a highly competitive atmosphere.
“It was an opportunity to get some exposure to playing there,” Scialabba said. “All our infielders work in different spots of the infield when they are doing drills and practicing. But getting him the game reps there and learning the different angles, learning to turn double plays, playing different shifting positions, cutting off relays, all the different nuances of playing the position, to do it in a game at that speed is important.”
“I think he’s capable of playing second base,” Callis said of Kieboom. “Obviously, Trea Turner is at shortstop. Even if (Bryce) Harper doesn’t come back, it’s easy to project a (Juan) Soto, (Victor) Robles and (Adam) Eaton outfield. I think it makes sense. I do think (Carter) can be ready in 2019, and barring injury, his opening probably comes at second base.”
Kieboom was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg June 21 at 20. He hit .262 in 62 games with a .326 on-base percentage with the Senators.
Scialabba said it is actually a common occurrence in baseball to see a shortstop prospect find his entry to the major leagues via second base. But even if he starts out at second base, Scialabba made it clear that Kieboom projects as a shortstop down the line.
“We’ve had so many infielders, shortstops particularly, to come up to the big leagues they end up playing second base to start out,” Scialabba said. “Reality is we have more potential (for playing time at second base) than we do at shortstop for the immediate moment, but we like Carter as a long-term shortstop. But he’s going to have to be able to play second base. Let’s put them in this environment where he can make mistakes and learn from them. The more reps he gets, the more prepared he will be.”
And if Kieboom gets his shot at the big leagues in 2019, could he hold his own at second base with the Nationals?
“I definitely think he could,” Callis said. “I think he’s one of the better middle-infield prospects in baseball. I think he’s one of the best hitters, who has more offensive upside among the middle-infield prospects in baseball. They promoted him pretty aggressively to Double-A last year. He didn’t tear it up, but he was pretty solid, especially for a 20-year-old.
“I think, realistically, mid-2019 could be a realistic ETA for him if you wanted to accelerate him to the big leagues.”
Kieboom was outstanding in the AFL. He hit well and played solid defense at shortstop and second base. He will get his shot to repeat that quality play in spring training. It is likely the Nats will bring in a veteran for the second base spot in 2019, but a mid-season call-up for Carter is also a good possibility. Kieboom could very well find his way to Nationals Park as quality depth at any infield position.