Tigers acquire speedy second baseman, lefty pitcher in Rule 5 Draft
For the first time since 2008, the Tigers have selected a player in the Rule 5 Draft. For the first time since 2004, they have two. For a contending team, it’s rare.
The Tigers are getting Jeff Kobernus, a speedy second baseman out of the Nationals farm system. The Red Sox selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, then traded him to Detroit for Triple-A Toledo utilityman Justin Henry. They’re also getting left-hander Kyle Lobstein from the Rays system through a trade with the Mets, who selected them and then dealt him to Detroit for cash considerations.
Both are former second round picks, and both are guys Dave Dombrowski said they targeted going in.
You might remember the Rule 5 as a way the Tigers added prospects when Dave Dombrowski was trying to rebuild the organization years ago. They carried three Rule 5 pitchers in 2003 with Wil Ledezma, Matt Roney and Chris Spurling. In those cases, the Tigers saw upside in the future. In this case, both Kobernus and Lobstein are guys the Tigers feel can help them right now.
The 24-year-old Kobernus hit .282 with a home run, 19 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 53 attempts over 82 games at Double-A Harrisburg. He has 120 steals in 149 attempts over 290 career games. He has played almost entirely second base in his career, but the Tigers see him as a potential utility guy.
“We not only like his ability to play second, but we think that perhaps — and he hasn’t really done much of it — he could have some versatility where we might be able to move him to the outfield and get some playing time there,” Dombrowski said.
He has played very little shortstop, but he’s not an answer to the Tigers’ potential moves there.
“We didn’t really take him because we think he’s going to play shortstop,” assistant general manager Al Avila said. “We took him because he can play second, we feel he can play some outfield and he’s a pretty decent hitter. If he plays shortstop, that’s kind of icing on the cake for us.”
The 23-year-old Lobstein went 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA over 27 starts at Double-A Montgomery, striking out 129 batters over 144 innings. It’s a pretty good snapshot of his pro career over the last four seasons, but the Tigers like the stuff.
“He’s more of an average fastball guy, good breaking ball and a changeup,” Dombrowski said. “We just like him as an overall pitcher. We look at him as a guy that might be able to come in as a starter and compete, but of course we don’t look at him as ahead of the other guys. He’s a guy that would be protection and maybe a second lefty, because we do like him in that regard.”