In the off-season, all of the prospect gurus published their lists of Top Prospects. Baseball America, Keith Law of ESPN and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com posted their prospect lists, and while the differences vary by each analyst, there is very little debate about the futures of Victor Robles and Juan Soto in the eyes of anyone watching. They are the Washington Nationals top two prospects and two of the top prospects in all of baseball. The Nationals next top prospect is shortstop Carter Kieboom who was a first round pick in the 2016 draft from Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia.
For the pre-season, MLB.com was the most bullish on the Nationals prospects overall as they wisely placed Juan Soto higher on their list and much higher than Baseball America (Soto #56/Robles #5) and ESPN was even more bullish (Soto #42/Robles #4). Carter Kieboom was at #90 on the MLB.com list, while Victor Robles led the group at #6 on the MLB.com list which was a spot or two lower than the others. All of these lists are getting updated for mid-season reports and all three top prospects should move up in the ratings.
The most exciting top-prospect baseball is being played in Woodbridge, Virginia where the High-A advanced Potomac Nationals roster is stacked with top talent. With Soto and Kieboom headlining their roster, they have several of the Nationals top prospects such as Wil Crowe (#8), Blake Perkins (#11), Gabe Klobosits (#17), and Telmito Agustin (#27). There are other notables that Luke Erickson wrote about last week at Potomac. Austin Davidson received a quick promotion to Harrisburg Double-A and made the list as well as Tyler Mapes who is a PNats starting pitcher. On Luke’s “interesting list”, he named catcher Tres Barrera .294/.333/.500 and closer James Bourque.
We have interviewed Carter Kieboom several times, but this is the first time we have talked to him at the Potomac Nationals. If you followed the Nationals in Spring Training, you got to see the 6′ 2″ 190 pound shortstop make several appearances. After his All-Star season last year with the Hagerstown Suns, the 20-year-old was promoted to start this season with the PNats. Playing with the Nationals in big league camp in Spring Training and receiving instruction from Kevin Long was all part of his early spring. Getting to play alongside his brother Spencer Kieboom in the same game was something you cherish.
— TALK NATS ⚾ (@TalkNats2) March 12, 2018
“Being around the big leaguers was fun and a learning experience,” Kieboom said. “Kind of watching how they do things a little differently. Being around guys who have been in pro ball for a few years to some who have been at it for fifteen years (Howie Kendrick) who have mastered all of those fundamentals and continue to play the game was pretty cool to see from the dugout. It is always good in those situations to observe. You see how some guys do things and you go ‘I like that’ and be exposed to this environment. It is definitely beneficial for the future.”
Being in big league camp allowed Carter Kieboom some time with the batting guru — Kevin Long a.k.a. “K-Long” to his peeps.
“What he has to offer and his thought process, and his viewpoint on hitting is pretty spectacular,” Kieboom said about Kevin Long. “I really know the guys up there love him. How he makes you feel as a hitter when you leave the cage every time he gives you that extra boost of confidence that you need as a hitter. If you have somebody that you can trust and buy into their thought processes and their approaches and their mindsets, it’s going to really help you out. I have heard from numerous guys from day-one that they trust K-Long. That’s something you should look forward to as a player in this system. To have a guy on your side that can give you the confidence and you can trust even when you’re struggling just knowing that he knows what’s best for you is huge.”
With the warmer weather, Carter has heated up. In the last 10 days, he is batting .308, but even more impressive is how he is cutting down on the strikeouts and ratcheting up the walks. Kieboom has a .342 OBP overall and in the last 10 games his BB/K is 2.5:1 which means for every strikeout he is walking 2 ½ times — and that is spectacular. Kieboom is working with his PNats hitting coach Luis Ordaz and manager Tripp Keister on approach and process and especially two-strike approach and seeing pitches and making adjustments.
Kieboom has had his share of struggles at this level, and he makes no excuses. What he says he wants to do when he is struggling with the bat is to make sure he is contributing to his team in other ways by hustling and making the tough plays in the field and being a positive teammate.
“I’m getting better and better at shortstop and getting into a routine,” Kieboom said. “Something I used to not do was a routine for defense. I always had a routine for hitting. That is something that me and Jeff Garber (fielding coordinator) have worked on is a routine on defense. Something you can do every day. I’ve never let me offense carry over to my defense. Something I learned from my brothers Spencer and Trevor was not allow a tough offensive day carryover to my defense.”
Carter is finally getting out to explore the Woodbridge area with the better weather and is looking forward to hitting up his favorite Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C. His go-to on a day-off is fishing on a pond he found in Woodbridge with some good bass fishing.