Nationals

Martinez likes Kieboom as potential middle-of-the-order bat

Nationals
Carter Kieboom

Carter Kieboom has hit fifth or lower in the Nationals’ batting order for all but one of his 33 starts this season. The lone exception came Tuesday, when an injury to shortstop Alcides Escobar allowed manager Davey Martinez to try Kieboom out at the No. 2 spot.

The third baseman took well to the opportunity, crushing a two-run home run off Philadelphia Phillies starter Matt Moore and drawing a walk. Yet despite Kieboom’s strong performance in his first taste of the top of the lineup, Martinez moved him back down following Escobar’s return.

“Carter does take his walks,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference Friday. “He sees a lot of pitches, which I like, but I also think that Carter eventually could be a guy in the middle of our lineup that could drive in some runs for us as well. So right now, he’s hitting fifth, sixth, seventh but I think the fact that he can get on base down there as well but also can drive in runs will help us out in the long run.”

After entering this season with a .541 career OPS in 44 games, Kieboom has shown flashes of the player the Nationals have hoped he can be. Since the start of August, he’s reached base at a clip of .353 while hitting six home runs and three doubles in 28 games. For Martinez, it’s the power that he sees Kieboom contributing the most moving forward.

That power was nonexistent in 2020, when he had just one extra-base hit (a double) in 33 games for the Nationals before a hand injury forced him to finish the year on the injured list. However, the Nationals were convinced he would come around and live up to his potential. Kieboom hit 16 home runs in 109 games at Triple-A Fresno in 2019 and had another 16 between High-A and Double-A the year prior.

 

For the first time at the big-league level, Kieboom is performing to expectations. His .764 OPS on the season is not going to earn him any NL Rookie of the Year votes, but the Nationals will take it after he struggled as much as he did in his first two stints. While he’s shown he can put his on-base skills to use in the No. 2 spot, Martinez wants to keep him further down in the lineup for now to ensure he’s in a position where he feels comfortable.

“Right now, that’s where he’s hitting,” Martinez said just before posting a lineup for Friday’s game against the New York Mets with Kieboom batting seventh. “He’s comfortable hitting there. I did put him up second just to see what that was like. He hit a home run that day but I definitely like him down in the middle of the lineup.”