The Carter Kieboom Conundrum

jmoynihan
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Carter Kieboom #8 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning of his major league debut at Nationals Park on April 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Carter Kieboom #8 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning of his major league debut at Nationals Park on April 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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While reports suggest that the Washington Nationals are still in the Josh Donaldson market, the recent flurry of free agent signings indicate that Donaldson isn’t likely to be a member of the Nationals this season.  This could create a huge opportunity for Carter Kieboom to make the roster and be a key contributor to the big league club.  But is he ready?

Last year Kieboom got a cup of coffee with the Nats after Trea Turner was injured.  He showed flashes at the plate, but struggled defensively and didn’t demonstrate consistent offensive production (albeit in only 43 plate appearances).  When Kieboom returned to the minors he put up solid numbers, slashing .303/.409/.493 with 16 long balls and 79 RBI’s for Triple A, Fresno.  With no clear cut infield rotation, Kieboom has a window to prove that he is ready to play big league baseball.  He will likely get the opportunity to prove he is ready for the big club this spring, but before that happens I wanted to see how similar players Triple A numbers look next to Kieboom’s.

Carter Kieboom has long been compared to Gavin Lux. Both infielders are heading into their age 22 season and have been top prospects for their respective franchises.  Lux flew through the Dodgers system last year destroying Double and Triple A pitching before arriving in Chavez Ravine.  Lux had 232 AB’s for Dodger affiliate Oklahoma City, and slashed a ridiculous .392/.478/.719. He also had 26 Home runs combined between Double and Triple A.  Those numbers didn’t exactly translate at the major league level, as he slashed a respectable, but significantly lower .240/.305/.400 in 82 plate appearances.  However, Lux’s production was significant enough for him to remain with the big league club throughout the end of the season and into the playoffs.

Gleyber Torres has been a stud since joining the Yankees, turning in two straight All-Star seasons.  In his final full minor league season Torres was good but not great.  He slashed .287/.383/.480  with only 7 homers in 232 plate appearances.  Those numbers took a dramatic leap when Torres arrived in New York.  His short swing has thrived versus major league pitching as he hit 24 home runs and 77 RBI’s in his rookie campaign.   While Nationals fans would love for Kieboom to replicate the numbers that Torres has put up, Gleyber has a few things working in his favor.  The Nats lineup is not nearly as destructive as the Yankees,  he plays 81 games at Yankee stadium, and he’s in the same division as the Baltimore Orioles (Torres has hit 16 homers against the Orioles in two seasons).

in 2017 Ryan McMahon was ridiculous for the Rockies Double and Triple A teams.  He slashed .355/.403/.583 with 20 home runs and 88 RBI’s.  McMahon split time between Triple A and the Rockies in 2018 and playing 91 games with Colorado.  Despite his massive minor league success and playing in hitter friendly Colorado, he saw a significant drop in his production slashing .232/.307/.376.  During that span McMahon hit only 5 home runs in 202 plate appearances. Last year was McMahon’s first full year in Colorado and he certainly progressed from 2018 with 24 long balls and a .250/.329/.450 slash line.  Washington is hoping that Kieboom doesn’t need 91 games to find his swing as McMahon did.

This is all to say that predicting a players production from the minor to major leagues is anything but an exact science.  There are countless variables that come into play which can make the transition to the major leagues easier or harder on any given player.  Kieboom is in a unique position.  While the Nationals would love for him to come in and produce similarly to Gleyber Torres, that certainly isn’t an expectation (nor a reality).

The signings of Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick give Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez the ability to move Keiboom to the big league roster at his own pace. When he is ready, Kieboom will enter a diverse club house, mixed with veterans like the players mentioned above, and young budding stars such as Juan Soto and Victor Robles; each of whom were very productive in their first full big league season. This mixture will help to keep Kieboom grounded while riding the wave of a 162 game season.  The Washington media certainly isn’t as intense as New York or Boston, and the Nationals are coming off of a World Series title which will appease the fan base long enough for Kieboom get comfortable with big league baseball.

While Carter Kieboom isn’t Josh Donaldson, and he certainly won’t replicate Anthony Rendon‘s numbers, he is in, what appears to be, an ideal situation for any young player on the cusp a making a major league splash.

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