The Nationals announced Wednesday that they’ve optioned struggling third baseman Carter Kieboom to their alternate training site in order to open a spot on the roster for lefty Sean Doolittle, who has been reinstated from the injured list.
Though Kieboom has yet to find his groove at the plate in 2020, it’s still a surprise to see the Nats option him out. The organizational hope had been that the 22-year-old, long considered one of MLB’s top overall prospects, could step into the Anthony Rendon-sized void in that lineup. That’s not to say that anyone expected the 2016 first-rounder to single-handedly make up for Rendon’s lost production, but Kieboom has been touted as a potentially plus hitter in his own right.
The future for Kieboom may still be bright, but he’s yet to find success in multiple big league auditions. He’s without an extra-base hit through 64 plate appearances this year, and he’s batted a combined .169/.299/.236 in 107 PAs dating back to last year’s debut. Clearly, that’s a far cry from last year’s .303/.409/.493 slash in 494 trips to the plate with Triple-A Fresno.
With Kieboom now out of the mix at third base and Starlin Castro on the shelf following surgery to repair a fractured wrist, the Nats will need to lean more heavily on the veteran trio of Asdrubal Cabrera, Josh Harrison and Howie Kendrick to carry the freight at second and third base. Kendrick has been limited to first base and DH exclusively in 2020, but he did appear in 23 games at second base and 15 games at third base during the 2019 regular season. Depending on how the Nats approach Monday’s looming trade deadline, we could see them look to add some infield depth — although starting pitching seems like a greater area of focus with Stephen Strasburg lost for the year and 60 percent of the rotation struggling to ERAs north of 5.00.