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I finalized my top 50 prospects ranking on 11/25/12. Following that date, the Tigers acquired several new minor leaguers that would certainly have been included on the list. This article's purpose is to show just exactly where they would have fit in, and why
As I said, I finalized the Top 50 Prospects Rankings list on 11/25/12. After that date, the Tigers acquired several guys who would have been included on the list. These guys are 2B/OF/UT Jeff Kobernus, LHP Kyle Lobstein, C Ramon Cabrera, and SS Gustavo Nunez.
So, let's begin:
Jeff Kobernus, UT
Acquired from the Red Sox for OF Justin Henry, Kobernus hopes to earn a spot as the Tigers' 25th man this spring. His best tool is that of his legit plus speed, which when combined with his excellent instincts, gives him 25-30 SB potential. He also has a solid hit tool, one that may be able to translate to .260-.270 batting averages in the major leagues. He doesn't have much power to speak of, but when he finds a gap, he can easily turn it into a triple due to his speed. He is a 2B by trade, and is an average to solid-average defender there. He has good range and solid actions to go along with the arm needed for the position. He doesn't profile at SS very well, but the Tigers will also be giving him a look in LF this spring. Our own Travis Wade spoke to him just after he was acquired, and Kobernus assured Travis that yes, he is indeed capable of playing the OF (but what did we expect him to say?). I expect that he will make the team as the "new Don Kelly", except this will be an entirely different version of Don Kelly.
If I was re-doing this list today, I'd have Kobernus at No. 21. For me, he would be the 2nd best 2B in the system (behind Castro) overall, and his more advanced hit tool would put him ahead of Hernan Perez for me.
Kyle Lobstein, LHP
Lobstein was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 draft from Tampa Bay, and was then shipped to the Tigers for cash. I really like what Lobstein is able to bring to the Tigers, but what hurts is that he must spend the entire season on the 25 man roster or risk being sent back to the Rays. He's essentially the perfect swingman: meaning that he has started his entire career in the minors, but doesn't profile there long term. He throws a fastball that sits in the high 80's (as a starter), a curveball that is fringy at best, and a changeup that flashes above-average at times. Ideally, he would make the team as a long reliever out of spring training, and then would be the ideal candidate to spot start in the event of an injury to the starting rotation. This way, if only one start is needed, the Tigers wouldn't have to worry about calling up an arm from the minors, etc.
Lobstein would check in at No. 28 on my list, just behind Alex Burgos (who I think has better starter projection that Lobstein).
Ramon Cabrera, C
Cabrera came to the Tigers by way of a trade with the Pirates, which sent LHP Andy Oliver to Pittsburgh. A switch-hitting catcher, Cabrera profiles as a hit-first backup catcher in the major leagues, with his defensive skills lagging behind his offense. Now, he's not a plus offense player by any means, but he's still a bit rough behind the plate. He adds depth to the upper levels of the minor leagues, where Holaday and McCann are currently projected to be in 2013. He finished the 2012 season at Class Double A, so I would expect him to either be at Erie or Toledo in 2013.
I would have him at No. 35 on my rankings list, behind Bryan Holaday, but I believe that they have similar ceilings in the majors. While Holaday is the better defender of the two, Cabrera has the better offensive profile. Neither of them have significant major league upside as starters, but both look to be solid backups, albeit with different skill sets.
Gustavo Nunez, SS
Nunez is a name that should be familiar to Tigers fans, as he was a member of their farm system until he was selected by the Pirates in the 2011 Rule 5 draft. He was returned to the Tigers recently, and will probably end up at Double A-Erie in 2013. He was once a pretty highly thought of prospect, as his defense and speed dazzled scouts across baseball. Now, however, he is more so thought of as an org guy, due to the underdevelopment of his hit tool, etc. He was once considered a 70-80 defender with 80 speed, but the bat never came along enough to project as a MLB starter long term. He could still potentially see the big leagues in time as a defense-first utility guy, but the Tigers have several of those already in the system.
Nunez would fit somewhere in the 30-40 range for me. I haven't given him as much thought as the others, but I would certainly have him behind Dixon Machado (No. 24), Hernan Perez (No. 27), and probably also behind Brandon Loy (No. 32). Following Loy, the next middle infield prospect I have is Devon Travis at No. 36, and i think Nunez would fit right in that range as well.
Note: The Tigers also acquired OF Eliezar Mesa in the minor league Rule 5 draft from Oakland, but I wouldn't have him on my Top 50 list.