MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Speed carries Kobernus to D.C.

Speed carries Kobernus to D.C.

I got to see Washington Nationals prospect Jeff Kobernus play several games this past spring. At the time, he was playing for the Detroit Tigers at their Spring Training camp in Lakeland. I was impressed with what I saw.

Kobernus, 25, came back to the Nationals in a bit of an unusual manner.

Like every team, the Nationals had difficult roster decisions to make prior to the 2012 Winter Meetings in Nashville. They chose to expose Kobernus to the other 29 teams in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Boston Red Sox plucked Kobernus from the Nationals and then traded him to the Tigers for outfield prospect Justin Henry.

Following his Spring Training trial with the Tigers, Kobernus did not make the 25-man roster, a requirement to retain a Rule 5 Draft selection. As guided by baseball rules, he was offered back to the Nationals for $25,000, half the price of the original December transaction. The Nationals welcomed him back.

Kobernus is ranked No. 9 on the Nationals' Top 20 Prospects list.

The Nationals chose Kobernus as their second-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He had played baseball in college at University of California, Berkeley.

Kobernus showed his versatility in college by playing center field his freshman year, third base his sophomore year and then second base at the end of his college career.

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Kobernus doesn't have the prototypical physique that is built for speed. But indeed, Kobernus can run.

While I like all his tools, speed -- and the damage speed can bring -- is Kobernus' greatest and most advanced weapon. He can put tremendous pressure on the defense by forcing errors and stealing bases with his well refined speed.

Kobernus began his Minor League career by playing 10 games at Class A Short-Season Vermont in 2009. He stole four bases without being caught.

He spent his first full season at Class A Hagerstown, where he got 343 plate appearances and hit .279, stealing 21 bases, but also being caught 10 times. For a player with his speed, Kobernus really didn't walk enough, accepting only 17 bases on balls. But he was still very new to the game.

In 2011, at age 23, Kobernus really opened some eyes. He stole 53 bases and was caught stealing only eight times for Class A Advanced Potomac in the Carolina League. He hit .282 and stroked 22 doubles, four triples and seven home runs. Kobernus was becoming more of a hitting threat to complement his speed.

Kobernus has advanced a classification each season, and his hitting has continued. This year, at Triple-A Syracuse, he hit .318 in 412 plate appearances and stole 42 bases.

Kobernus was summoned to the parent club in May this season. He played in 15 games and hit .174 before being returned to Syracuse. Of significance during his brief stay was the fact he played all three outfield positions and did not play second base at all.

Kobernus returned to Washington as a September roster addition. In total, he has played in 21 big league games this season while getting 29 plate appearances. He's hitting .167 overall in his two separate stints with the Nationals. He has two stolen bases.

Kobernus will have to continue to refine his short swing and make every effort to get on base. Then the Nationals can use his outstanding speed to put pressure on the defense.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.