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Why the Nationals don’t see upgrading at second base as an offseason priority

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Wilmer Difo, above, and veteran Howie Kendrick are anticipated to be the Nationals’ temporary answer at 2d base. (John McDonnell/The Washington Put up)

Initially of baseball’s offseason, the Washington Nationals time table appeared transparent lower: cope with the Bryce Harper state of affairs, enhance the bullpen, upload both a front-line or intensity starter to the rotation and improve at catcher and 2d base.

However Mike Rizzo already has lower that checklist, the Nationals common supervisor pronouncing he’s ok with what the group these days has on their roster on the place — a most likely platoon of veteran Howie Kendrick and software infielder Wilmer Difo — and that the group is already growing potentialities to doubtlessly play there someday.

“We adore our state of affairs in the midst of the infield with Trea [Turner] and Howie and Difo and [Carter] Kieboom within the wings. We were given [Luis] Garcia within the wings that we don’t really feel is a long way away,” Rizzo stated ultimate week at baseball’s common managers’ conferences in Carlsbad, Calif. “We adore our intensity there; we truly like the power degree there.

“We’ve were given some excessive high-ceiling gamers that we predict are going to be truly excellent performers for us, and we were given a number of of them. So I believe that it’s now not a need for us, or a necessity for us. It might should be one thing that we concept used to be a excellent worth to us.”

That doesn’t miss the potential for Rizzo taking a look at a 2d baseman within the loose agent marketplace this iciness, but it surely does imply the group now not perspectives the location as a urgent drawback heading into 2019. Kendrick, a 35-year-old with a .291 profession batting moderate, ignored the vast majority of ultimate season with a torn Achilles’ tendon and shall be again for the overall 12 months of his contract with the Nationals. Difo, a 26-year-old who can play each shortstop and 2d base, has moonlighted as an on a regular basis participant however most commonly stayed in a software function all over his two complete primary league seasons. Then there may be Kieboom and Garcia, two of the Nationals’ brightest potentialities, whom Rizzo thinks may simply make the transition from shortstop (their herbal place) to 2d base.

Kieboom is 21 years outdated, used to be named the Nationals’ minor league participant of the 12 months for 2018, shined within the Arizona Fall League in October and must get started subsequent season with the Magnificence AA Harrisburg Senators ahead of having a possibility to climb during the machine. Rizzo stated Wednesday that he expects Kieboom to make his primary league debut one day in 2019. Garcia is a little bit at the back of Kieboom from a building perspective; the 18-year-old spent the season navigating the 2 ranges of Magnificence A and can most likely spend all of this coming season within the minors.

However that’s what everybody concept outfielder Juan Soto would do right now ultimate 12 months, and now he may win Nationwide League rookie of the 12 months Monday. That isn’t to mention that Kieboom or Garcia could have the type of historical good fortune that Soto did at 19 years outdated, however it’s value noting that Rizzo does now not shy clear of giving gamers a possibility at an overly younger age. So Kieboom and/or Garcia may get a possibility at 2d base within the not-so-distant long term, with Kendrick and Difo most likely conserving down the spot within the intervening time.

“We adore guys who can play shortstop as a result of we really feel it’s an more straightforward transition to transport off of brief,” Rizzo stated ultimate week. “So we really feel that [Kieboom] can deal with the location on the primary league degree, however he and Garcia are each going to deal with the change to 2d base, or to 3rd base, we predict seamlessly.”

Via citing each 2d and 0.33 base as chances for Kieboom and Garcia, Rizzo made something transparent: The Nationals don’t have any instant intentions of shifting Turner, their 25-year-old shortstop who completed 2018 with career-highs in house runs (19) and RBI (73) and led the NL in stolen bases (43) whilst showing in all 162 video games of the common season. 3rd base is best within the dialog as a result of Anthony Rendon isn’t signed previous 2019, however it’s most likely he inks a long-term deal to fasten down that place for the foreseeable long term.

That leaves 2d base as a short- and long-term want for the Nationals, and Rizzo said that anyone will wish to shift positions to make their plans paintings.

Will have to the Nationals did dip into loose company for a 2d baseman — despite the fact that they appear method much more likely to spend on a beginning pitcher and a catcher — choices come with D.J. LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison, Brian Dozier and Marwin Gonzalez. The switch-hitting Gonzalez may make a large number of sense, since he performs more than one positions, and may additionally give the Nationals a left-handed possibility at the back of Ryan Zimmerman to start with base.

But it sort of feels extra possible, in line with Rizzo’s overview of what the Nationals have already got, that they stand pat at 2d and use their sources somewhere else. Kendrick supplies a veteran right-handed bat, and the switch-hitting Difo has given the Nationals bursts of power, or even some energy, when given the chance. Difo will wish to blank up psychological errors within the box and at the base paths and lower down on his strikeouts on the plate if a pairing of him and Kendrick goes to paintings. If it does, a minimum of smartly sufficient for the Nationals to carry off on in quest of a multiyear answer from outdoor the group, it might appear that Kieboom gets the primary crack at making the location his down the street.

Rizzo is fast to notice that the Nationals nonetheless see Kieboom as a shortstop, however that doesn’t bargain him as an possibility at 2d base. Kieboom performed 2d on this 12 months’s Arizona Fall League and used to be named an all celebrity. He has plans to paintings with present and previous primary league 2d basemen this offseason to refine his footwork across the bag whilst turning double performs. He’s the group’s subsequent big-time prospect in line to make his debut, following the hot promotions of Soto, Victor Robles and beginning pitcher Erick Fedde, and Kieboom’s building has the Nationals seeing promise the place others would possibly see a necessity.

“I believe he’s going to take to it very, very easily. He’s an athlete, he’s a baseball man, he’s were given an especially excessive IQ, and I don’t see that being a subject matter in any way, the transition from shortstop to 2d base,” Rizzo stated of Kieboom. “We nonetheless recall to mind him as a shortstop, we imagine that he’s an on a regular basis primary league shortstop and suppose he can deal with that place. However we were given an attractive rattling excellent one presently and he’s now not going anyplace for some time.”

Learn extra Nationals protection from The Put up:

Some chuckle at $400 million for Bryce Harper. Right here’s how Scott Boras plans to get it.

Nationals’ be offering to Bryce Harper used to be largest loose agent deal in U.S. sports activities historical past. What now?

A Large Hit: Juan Soto, the marvel of the Nationals’ season, is right here to stick

Fancy Stats: NL rookie of the 12 months race between Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr. is impossibly tight

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