On Thursday afternoon, the Washington Nationals announced the names of the 20 players that they were inviting to Spring Training in Viera, Florida as non-roster invitees. While some players have better chances than others of making the 40-man roster Opening Day, we want to give you, the reader, a look at all of these players in case they turn out to be Spring Training surprises.
For this piece, we are going to take more of a focus on one of the catchers, 23-year-old Spencer Kieboom. Kieboom is not going to make the major league roster when camp breaks, but he did show some good signs a season ago down in low-A Hagerstown.
The fifth round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Clemson hit .309 with nine home runs and 61 RBI’s in 87 games. It’s impressive that Kieboom hit .309 last year when you consider that while he was at Clemson University, he hit no higher than .282 in each of his three seasons. He hit a career .265 with the Tigers with four home runs and 74 RBI’s.
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When you look at his numbers from Hagerstown more closely, Kieboom had an excellent first half of the season. He hit .319 in 37 games with three home runs and 23 RBI’s, thus leading to Kieboom getting selected to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. In the second half of the season, the power improved as he hit six home runs (three in the first half) with 38 RBI’s in 50 games.
As a whole, the Hagerstown Suns were third in the league as a team in batting average and third in RBI’s. Kieboom played a part in that success. His .309 average was second on the team behind Wilmer Difo’s .315. In addition, he was fourth on the team in home runs, third in RBI’s, and first in slugging percentage and .OPS.
Kieboom, who was selected as a MILB organization All-Star for 2014, got a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. In ten games for the Mesa Solar Sox, he hit .324 with one home run and seven RBI’s.
As far as his defense goes, he threw out 40% of runners trying to steal a season ago, according to Baseball Reference. Plus, he isn’t one to make mistakes behind the plate , as evidenced by just two errors. In that MILB organization All-Star piece, the Nationals’ director of player development, Mark Scialabba, gave great praise to Kieboom’s defense:
"“He’s a leader on the field. We’re very pleased with his performance, he did a great job handling that staff. He has a lot of talent, he was a constant backstop where we trusted him day in and day out.”"
While Kieboom is not as touted as top catching prospects Jakson Reetz or Pedro Severino (another non-roster invitee), Kieboom is projected to be the starter for Potomac next season. So while we have talked a lot about the pitchers that were in Hagerstown lately, keep an eye on this 23-year-old catcher who is rising up the ranks for his solid play all across the board.