What to expect from Nats' Carter Kieboom

April 26th, 2019

The Nationals officially promoted top prospect Carter Kieboom to the Major Leagues on Friday ahead of the team’s three-game home series against the Padres.

With Trea Turner out indefinitely with a fractured index finger and Brian Dozier and Wilmer Difo collectively hitting .214 with six home runs, 12 RBIs and 39 strikeouts on the season, the Nationals are hoping that the 21-year-old Kieboom, MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 overall prospect, will provide the much-needed up-the-middle production they’ve been lacking.

Kieboom was among the final cuts from Nationals big league camp this past spring, when he hit .279/.353/.558 while appearing in 25 games. Kieboom showcased his electric bat speed en route to three home runs -- he took Justin Verlander deep twice in the same game -- and three doubles in 43 at-bats.

The strong performance gave Washington enough confidence to assign Kieboom, who entered the spring with only a half-season of Double-A experience under his belt, directly to Triple-A Fresno to open the current season, and he responded to the challenge by hitting a robust .379/.506/.636 with three home runs, six doubles and 18 RBIs in his first 18 games. In 83 plate appearances, he compiled 16 walks against 20 strikeouts.

Kieboom was viewed by scouts as one of the better high school hitters in his class as a Georgia prep before the Nationals took him with the first of their back-to-back first-round picks (No. 28 overall) in the 2016 Draft. He signed for below-slot value at $2 million and then made his professional debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

A right hamstring injury limited Kieboom to just 61 games the next year in what was supposed to be his first full season. He still managed to put up impressive numbers across three levels, though, hitting .297/.396/.493 with nine homers and 16 doubles while logging the majority of his at-bats with Class A Hagerstown.

Fully healthy in 2018, Kieboom broke out in earnest.

A torrid first half at Class A Advanced Potomac -- in which Kieboom batted .298/.386/.494 with 11 homers -- netted him mid-season All-Star honors in the Carolina League, and he had already been promoted to Double-A Harrisburg when he represented the United States in the prestigious SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July. He held his own as a 20-year-old in the Eastern League, producing a .262/.326/.395 line and adding five more homers in 62 games.

All together, Kieboom compiled a .280/.357/.444 line between the two levels, hitting 16 homers and 31 doubles over 123 games. He finished among the organization's Minor League leaders in extra-base hits (48, tied-first), home runs (16, third) and RBIs (69, second).

Recognizing Kieboom for his breakout campaign, the Nationals named him their Minor League Player of the Year, and he continued to make strides on both sides of the ball after the season while playing in the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League.

With his blend of pure hitting ability and power potential, Kieboom has the offensive tools needed to make an immediate impact at the highest level.

His right-handed swing is both gorgeous and impactful, combining plus-plus bat speed with excellent barrel control that enables him to drive the ball with authority to all parts of the field. He consistently puts together good at-bats, demonstrating an advanced approach that resulted in respective strikeout and walk rates of 20.6 and 11.2 percent during his climb through the Minor Leagues.

Kieboom has plus raw power that plays very well to his pull-side during games, but he’s also shown the ability to go deep the other way. What’s more, it’s widely agreed upon that he will develop even more power as he adds strength to his athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, as many scouts peg him for above-average power in the big leagues at maturity.

While not a basestealing threat, Kieboom does have average speed which plays up thanks to his quick feet and excellent instincts on the basepaths.

As a shortstop, Kieboom has worked hard in the pro ranks to improve defensively and projects to be at least an average defender. His overall consistency leaves something to be desired (as is so often the case with young shortstops), but his range, hands and arm strength all fit well at the position.

Kieboom’s defensive chops also play well at second base, and he started to receive reps at the position during last year’s Arizona Fall League as a means of improving his versatility ahead of his likely debut in 2019. Ahead of his promotion, Kieboom had logged 12 games at short compared to six at the keystone. 

As a big leaguer, Kieboom is likely to continue seeing time at both positions, but he's probably ticketed for second base when Turner finally returns. Regardless of which spot he plays, Kieboom’s dynamic bat gives him the potential to become an above-average middle-infielder -- a valuable player by all standards.

While it may seem as though the Nats are rushing Kieboom to the big leagues, the reality is simply that the 21-year-old’s game is coming together that quickly, allowing him to develop as linearly as any big-name prospect.