Washington Nationals: What Carter Kieboom’s Injury Means Moving Forward
By Max Rayman
Looking to prove the doubters wrong and finally break out, a former Washington Nationals’ top prospect has received some unfortunate injury news.
Entering a prove-it season with the Washington Nationals, Carter Kieboom was scratched from the team’s Spring Training opener. The move caught the eye of the fanbase, with some asking if Washington was on the verge of making a surprise trade.
Instead, Kieboom suffered a UCL sprain/flexor mass strain while throwing and was subsequently placed on the 60-day IL. It will be at least six weeks before he can resume baseball activities. This injury is a major setback for someone who was entering a prove-it year.
Drafted by the Nationals in the first round of the 2016 draft, Kieboom quickly moved from Washington’s farm system to become one of the team’s top prospects. Yet, the 24-year-old has yet to live up to the hype and has been unable to run away with the starting job at third.
In 355 ABs, he’s hitting .197, with eight homers, 31 RBIs, and an OPS of .589. Since making his MLB debut in 2019, Kieboom has bounced up and down between the majors and minors — finally receiving a full opportunity after the Nationals firesale. In 62 games, he hit .207, with six homers, 20 RBIs, and an OPS of .619.
At times last year, Kieboom showed glimpses of why the Nationals are so high on him. In an early August four-game series against the Phillies, he caught fire, going 7-15, with two homers, five RBIs, and two walks.
Yet, more times than not he looked overwhelmed at the plate and took a step back defensively. After posting 4 DRS and a 0.8 UZR in 2020, he posted -8 DRS and a -4.1 UZR last year. However, despite his struggles and facing one of the most stacked free agent classes of all time, Mike Rizzo decided against upgrading at the position.
Who Will Start In Kieboom’s Stead?
Rizzo has reiterated his faith in Kieboom, but the 24-year-old entered Spring Training still having to win the starting spot. His main competition was veteran Maikel Franco, who now due to the former’s injury, has become the frontrunner to start the season at the hot corner.
An eight-year veteran, Franco spent the first six years of his career with the Phillies, before playing for the Royals and Orioles in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Across his eight-year career, he’s hitting .249, with 121 homers, 428 RBIs, and an OPS of .720.
Franco is coming off arguably the worst year of his career, hitting .210, with 11 homers, 41 RBIs, and an OPS of .609 in 104 games. His OPS+ and wRC+ of .609 and 63 were well below his career averages of .720 and 90. In two games this Spring, he’s 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Another candidate to receive playing time at third is utility infielder Ehire Adrianza, who has 111 spent 111 career games at third. Last year with Atlanta, he posted the second-best OPS (.728) and wRC+ (90) of his career. So far this spring, he’s 1-4, with a double and a strikeout in two games.
Other candidates for playing time at third include minor leaguer Richard Ureña. The 26-year-old spent last season with Toronto, slashing .272/.310/.438, with nine homers, and a .748 OPS in 92 games at AAA.