Carter Kieboom’s bat was enough to convince the Washington Nationals he should join them.
The team is expected to call up Kieboom, its top prospect, on Friday, according to a source. Jake Noll was sent back to Triple-A Fresno on Thursday to open a 25-man roster spot. An additional move is required because Kieboom is not on the 40-man roster.
Kieboom’s 1.142 OPS at Fresno was on the minds of observers since the season started. He spent spring training in major-league camp until the end. He was sent to Fresno because of the infield log jam at the major-league level to start the season.
Depth in Washington’s middle infield has waned considerably since. Starting shortstop Trea Turner -- the reason Kieboom was working at second base both in the Arizona Fall League and at times in Fresno -- broke his right index finger when attempting a bunt. The Nationals have repeatedly said there is no timetable for Turner’s return -- at least not one being shared with the public.
Anthony Rendon has not played since being hit by a pitch on April 20. Howie Kendrick and Noll spelled Rendon at third base. Though, he is expected back this weekend.
Wilmer Difo replaced Turner. He is an enormous step down in offensive production from Turner, who led the National League in OPS among shortstops (1.257 in a tiny four-game sample size) when he was injured. Difo has a .678 OPS this season.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo typically calls up prospects with the intent to play them often. If that’s the case for Kieboom, it means he will replace Difo despite defense being the key concern for the 21-year-old. It also may indicate a prolonged absence for Turner, who has not played since April 2.
Utility infielder Adrian Sanchez joined the Nationals immediately after Turner’s injury instead of Kieboom. Rizzo said Kieboom still needed further work in the field.
“I just think we want to refine Carter defensively a little bit,” Rizzo said at the time. “Offensively he had a great spring and a great Arizona Fall League. He’s very, very close to becoming major-league ready. We think he just needs a few more reps at the position. We’re going to see him sooner rather than later. We’re not afraid of timelines. We’re not afraid of putting young players in the big leagues. When we feel he’s ready, we’ll bring him.”
Just three weeks later, Kieboom is en route to Washington. He played 48 innings at second base and 106 innings at shortstop. Kieboom made an error at each position.
Kieboom is unlikely to unseat the combination of Brian Dozier and Kendrick at second base (assuming Rendon is back to playing soon). Dozier is the team’s best defender at the position, plus his offense has recently picked up. The Nationals do not want to play the 35-year-old Kendrick every day in order to maintain his health.
The Nationals could move reliever Koda Glover to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Kieboom. They also could release struggling reliever Trevor Rosenthal, though that would be a drastic step.
The Washington Post was first to report Kieboom’s promotion.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: