No. 1 Carter Kieboom
Baseball America Nats correspondent Lacy Lusk said prior to spring training that Kieboom has demonstrated he is worth the risk at that important spot.
“I think he’s certainly worth giving a chance,” Lusk said. “But it’s good to have that buffer with Asdrúbal Cabrera, sharing time at third. If that’s the most likely spot where Carter will land, then it will be good to have him there as insurance in case Trea Turner goes down again, as he did early last year. I would definitely expect him to take what he did last year and build on that and come back ready to produce the way he has throughout his minor league career. He is still a young guy, very even-keeled, and I think he will be able to handle the challenge.”
Kieboom played 11 games in the major leagues last season and then continued to develop at Triple-A Fresno. Carter, 22, slashed .303/.409/.493 for the Grizzlies over 109 games, with 24 doubles, three triples, 16 homers and 79 RBIs.
Kieboom has struggled a bit on defense this spring in West Palm Beach, with three errors in 14 games. On offense, he has hit .233/.395/.300 with two doubles and two RBIs in 30 at-bats.
So should Kieboom be played second base or shortstop at the highest level? Or can he work his way into feeling comfortable at third base?
“I was thinking second base from what I’ve seen in the minor leagues,” Lusk said. “Scouts have been split, whether at short or second. Throw Starlin Castro in that fold or Howie Kendrick (for Nats in 2020) and third base seems to be the most logical place for him. I think if you can play short - if you are a 50 on a 20-to-80 scale - you can certainly play third. I think he will be able to fit in fine. He won’t be an Anthony Rendon, but I think he will be a suitable third baseman.”
The Nats have Cabrera, Kendrick, Castro and possibly even veteran Emilio Bonifácio to help at third in 2020, if they believe Kieboom still needs some more seasoning. But now with the season delayed and the timing of preparation altered due to the coronavirus pandemic, the thinking behind what to do with Kieboom may change as well.
“It would be wise with all the infielders they have to send him to the PCL, let him get off to a good start, come up - less pressure on him than being the opening day third baseman,” Lusk said.