On Wednesday the Nationals optioned Carter Kieboom to the team’s Alternative Training Site due to his recent struggles at the plate. It was a mindboggling decision.
Yesterday, our own James Simmons wrote a piece explaining how it is unfair to compare Kieboom to his predecessor, Anthony Rendon and he is completely right. The majority of fans knew letting Rendon walk was a huge gamble and the Nats decided to put all of their eggs in the Carter Kieboom basket. The front office made a decision, but never fully went through with the plan. Kieboom was never given a full chance at third because instead, he platooned with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is an aging veteran who is part of the now, but not the future. Kieboom was never given a fair shake from the start and at the first sign of struggles, the team decided to back out and they sent him to the team’s Alternative Training Site.
The reasoning behind this decision was to give Kieboom more time to develop and work on his bat. However, this was a mistake. Kieboom needs to adapt to MLB level pitching and that means being given as many reps as possible. Washington is last in the NL East at 11-17 and six games behind the first-place Braves. While the team is quickly falling out of playoff contention, now is the perfect time to give the young kid as many reps as possible.
Yes, Kieboom’s bat has been lackluster, shown by his disappointing .200 batting average. He has no extra-base hits, five RBI’s and has struck out 20 times while drawing 11 walks. Kieboom ranks 31st in strikeout percentage (31.3%), a minimum of 50 plate appearances. Despite all of this, Kieboom has been handcuffed by his lack of opportunities. He only has 89 professional at-bats under his belt and is suffering due to his lack of experience.
While he has been abysmal at the plate, a pleasant surprise has been Kieboom’s defensive evolution. The 22-year old’s natural position is shortstop, but Trea Turner has that locked down. Due to this, Washington decided to switch their top prospect over to third, which took some time. The switch didn’t come naturally and Kieboom struggled. At Spring Training, Kieboom committed three errors in 17 games, which put him at a .900 fielding percentage. Entering the season, it was reasonable to assume Kieboom would continue to falter defensively. Instead, it has been the opposite. In 16 games, he has only committed one error and has five defensive runs saved (DRS). That is an impressive turnaround and proves that he just needs more everyday reps to become acclimated to the pro level.
Washington has made the mistake of sending Kieboom down and keeping him from more playing time. At this point in his career, all he needs is more opportunities. Kieboom has yet to get himself into a rhythm and placing him at the Alternate Training Site won’t fix this problem.