Carter Kieboom is in West Palm Beach, Fla., these days, rehabbing a right hamstring injury he suffered in mid-May. At that time, Kieboom was hitting .333 with a .984 OPS in his first six weeks in low Class A. The Nationals’ first choice in the 2016 draft was well on his way.
But the injury sent Kieboom back to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, enduring rehab and the sometimes oppressive downtime that comes with it.
At one point, Kieboom found himself watching a video, sent to him through social media, of a man named Steve Winfree. In the video, Winfree was opening a pack of baseball cards, including Kieboom’s as well as those of Noah Syndergaard and Mike Trout. But the real prize was a card made by Winfree’s wife to delivered important news: She was a donor match, and could give Winfree the kidney he needed.
Kieboom, whose brother Spencer is in Class AAA Syracuse, had never had any connection to kidney disease before, but the video struck him.
“Personally, I think everything happens for a reason. I think my card was put into that deck for a reason,” the 19-year-old said. “I felt like that was my call, that I needed to take part and do something for him.”
So Kieboom brought an idea to his brother Trevor, a certified MLB agent. They started a fundraising initiative for the American Kidney Fund, joining the organization’s preexisting network of fundraisers. Kieboom is raffling off game-used batting gloves and bats for the cause, with larger donations bypassing the raffle and earning game-used gear right away.
“We figured, what’s better than going to the Nationals community?” Kieboom said. “We thought that might help people raise money for it, and help get their attention.”
Kieboom said he understands that while he doesn’t have a major league profile, he is a first-round pick and therefore has enough to use his visibility to give back.
The shortstop also has visibility within the industry. He is one of the prospects the Nationals have been extremely reluctant to move over the past year, not as untouchable as Victor Robles, Juan Soto, or Erick Fedde, but close. So Monday, as trade rumors swirl and deals coalesce, Kieboom’s name might pop up. All indications are that the Nationals will need to receive quite a haul to let him go.
They traded their other 2016 first-round choice, Dane Dunning, and their 2012 first-rounder, Lucas Giolito, in the much-discussed Adam Eaton trade, and have been willing to part with first-rounders in the past. But they have not traded a first-round position player choice under Rizzo.
Kieboom’s health might have complicated other teams’ ability to scout him this summer. He began playing in games last week — three innings at a time, soon five — and is 3 for 3 in two appearances.
“Keep building up on it,” Kieboom said. “Hopefully in a few weeks or so, not sure what the timeline is exactly, but maybe by the end of the year I’ll be back up in Hagerstown or something. There’s no pain, and I feel everything is healed up now.”
Kieboom is the Nationals’ fourth-rated prospect on MLB.com. Their third-rated prospect, Fedde, made his major league debut Sunday. When Fedde graduates the prospect lists, this year’s first-rounder Seth Romero will likely move into the top pitching prospect spot. Romero has not yet appeared in a Gulf Coast League game, though he is listed on their roster. The Nationals held Romero out of games as he rebuilt arm strength since he had not pitched in a college game since early May.
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