Age: 22 yr, Weight: 190 lbs, Height: 6-2
School: Walton (GA) HS
MLB Draft: Round 1, Overall: 28
Current Level: AAA, ETA: 2019
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Nationals next young phenom might have a gig as the team’s everyday third baseman when baseball returns
When the Nationals had a rash of outfield injuries in 2018, it turned out to be a serendipitous gift to the organization. The Childish Bambino was born. The organization tried to catch that lightning again in 2019 when shortstop Trea Turner broke his finger attempting to bunt early in April. The team recalled top prospect Carter Kieboom and let him try and run with the starting shortstop job. From this experiment we learned two things; 1) don’t bunt and 2) lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Small sample at the major league level, but Kieboom struggled with all types of breaking and offspeed pitches, whiffing over 30 percent of the time, leading him to a 37 K%. That being said, when he was able to make contact, he did a good job lifting the ball (12.4 average launch angle) finding the barrel, and posting an xwOBAcon of .419 (MLB average last year was .371).
A cursory look at his PCL line (.309/.409/.493) shows that he thrived at Triple-A. However, digging into park and league adjustments puts his OPS+ at 118 and his ISO+ lower at 94 (6% below league average). He has yet to post an ISO above .200 since 2017.
Remember though, Kieboom is still only 22. He’s flashed the plate approach and contact rates of a plus hit tool guy in his young career, and even if he doesn’t turn into a slugging shortstop, he might pan out as a third baseman with a great approach who can slug enough to do some damage. The team is auditioning him at the hot corner this spring, making it seem like a full time job is his to lose.