Before the 2020 season was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, top prospect Carter Kieboom was expected to be the Nationals' starting third baseman even though he's a natural shortstop.
As the season is set to begin on Thursday, Kieboom at third will still be the team's reality, though Asdrubal Cabrera is going to get the start at third on Opening Day. While his bat was never in question, Kieboom struggled defensively throughout spring training.
He committed three errors in his first 10 starts during the team's spring exhibitions, which is not what you want to see from your everyday third baseman. But with a four-month hiatus, the 22-year-old has had time to iron out some of those issues and general manager Mike Rizzo has noticed the improvement.
"He's made extremely good progress defensively," Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "The move from shortstop to third is not an easy one. I did it as a minor-leaguer back in the day and it's a very-very tough position to play, especially in the major leagues with the exit velocity these guys are coming out of the box with."
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Kieboom was a shortstop in high school, played the position at Clemson and in what will be his first look at extended time in the majors, he'll play third base. Sounds fair, right?
Either way, Rizzo is confident in the young infielder and believes he'll only get better as he gets more big-league games under his belt.
"It's a quick-twitch reaction position and we think Carter's athletic enough to play it," he said. "Footwork, he's got to get better at it. but it's a repetition thing and there's nothing like taking live reps. When you get balls off the bat at 108-109 mph down that coming down that line, it's those live reps that really help you improve."
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[There's a] high baseball IQ on Carter," he said. "He's going to get it, it's just a matter of how quickly he can get it and adjust to it at the big-league level."
The Nationals' have used a fair share of their farm system to make trades that have helped their roster compete for World Series titles. Kieboom is one of the only players coming up that has true star/consistent starter potential.
For Washington to sustain a high level of play after losing players like Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper in consecutive years, they'll need Kieboom to contribute to a solid young core consisting of Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Trea Turner.
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