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Kieboom hopes to use AFL as springboard to MLB

October 17, 2018

Carter Kieboom knows just how much of a springboard the Arizona Fall League can be in a young player's career.Kieboom watched his older brother Spencer make a stop in the Fall League in 2015 en route to his big league debut with Washington the following year. With such knowledge to

Carter Kieboom knows just how much of a springboard the Arizona Fall League can be in a young player's career.
Kieboom watched his older brother Spencer make a stop in the Fall League in 2015 en route to his big league debut with Washington the following year. With such knowledge to draw upon, the Nationals' No. 2 prospect has entered his first AFL campaign with an idea of what he could expect.
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
"I saw the guys [Spencer] played with out here and all the guys who've made it up to the big leagues from his team, including him. I just know how prestigious this is and how great the opportunity is to play against such quality players," said Kieboom, MLB Pipeline's No. 37 overall prospect.
The Nationals tabbed Kieboom for this year's Fall League after he hit .280/.357/.444 with 16 homers and nine steals over 123 games while splitting his age-20 season between Class A Advanced Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. Overall, his 48 extra-base hits tied for tops among Nationals Minor Leaguers, while his 16 homers ranked third and his 69 RBIs second.
Along the way, the now-21-year-old shortstop was named a Carolina League midseason All-Star and also suited up for the U.S. squad in the Futures Game at Nationals Park in July, an experience that left him with a brief taste of his possible future with the Nationals.
"It was very cool to see a flash of what it's like up there," said Kieboom, "but at the end of the day I don't want to sit here and look ahead and worry about all that stuff. All I can do is worry about what's right in front of me ... I know if I take care of what I need to take care of each day and do my routine, I trust it'll all work out."
While Kieboom fared better offensively at Potomac than he did after receiving a midseason bump up to Harrisburg, he still produced a very respectable line of .262/.326/.395, with five homers and 16 doubles, over 62 games in the Eastern League.
More important, the 2016 first-rounder stayed on the field from start to finish after a hamstring injury had limited him to just 61 games in his full-season debut.
"It's a long year, and I probably got tired at the end, but that's natural. It was really my first full season -- I'd never played that many games before -- so going into the year that was my goal, to stay healthy and play 120-plus games," said Kieboom.
"To make it that far and have the success I had, I was very pleased with this past season," he added.
Nationals hitters in the Fall League
Tres Barrera, C -- The 2016 sixth-rounder and Nats No. 15 prospect continued his steady climb through Washington's system by hitting .263/.334/.386 with six homers and 14 doubles over 68 games in the Carolina League, where he was a midseason All-Star. Defensively, Barrera's 49 percent caught-stealing rate (25 for 51) ranked second in the circuit and he committed just two passed balls in 569 innings behind the plate.
Jake Noll, 3B/1B -- Selected one round after Barrera in the '16 Draft, Noll split his season evenly between Potomac and Harrisburg, hitting .291/.341/.412 with 35 extra-base hits (11 HR) and 72 RBIs in 132 games. Primarily a second baseman during his first two pro seasons, the 24-year-old was shifted to third base this season and also began to receive reps at first.
Daniel Johnson, OF -- The Nationals' No. 7 prospect is returning to the Fall League this year to make up for the six weeks he lost after suffering a broken hamate bone in his hand in June. While the injury understandably impacted Johnson's power numbers -- he finished with seven home runs after hitting 22 in 2017 -- he did produce a .267/.321/.410 line with 32 extra-base hits and 21 steals over 89 games in his first Double-A exposure.
Nationals pitchers in the Fall League
Ben Braymer, RHP -- Braymer, 24, was named Washington's co-Minor League pitcher of the year after he led Nats farmhands with a 2.28 ERA while going 9-3 with two saves in 28 games (11 starts) between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac. The 6-foot-2 left-hander racked up 118 strikeouts -- third-most in the system -- in 114.2 innings pitched, and opposing batters hit just .219 against him.
Taylor Guilbeau, LHP -- In his first year as a full-time reliever, the 25-year-old left-hander posted a 2.52 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 15 walks over 35 2/3 innings for Potomac. He was especially effective during the second half, logging a 1.17 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 23 IP, and demonstrated LOOGY potential with a 35.1 percent strikeout rate and .184 BAA (.482 OPS) versus same-sided hitters.
Jordan Mills, LHP -- Signed as a Minor League free agent in April 2017, Mills -- originally a 28th-round pick by the Astros in '13 -- reached Double-A for the first time this season as part of a breakout campaign. Tossing 54 1/3 innings across 40 appearances and two levels, the 26-year-old lefty posted 2.48 ERA with 61 strikeouts and a 57 percent ground-ball rate.
Luis Reyes, RHP -- The Nats' No. 23 prospect was sidelined for much of the second half with an oblique strain and accrued just 75 1/3 innings across three levels after tossing a combined 261 frames in his two previous seasons. Reyes did reach Double-A for the first time in his sixth professional season, though his strikeout rate plummeted to 5.0 K/9 there after an impressive 8.5 K/9 showing with Potomac in 2017.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.