The Washington Nationals have built a playoff contending team based largely on homegrown players. Led by stalwarts like Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman, the Nats are expecting to make a serious run into October because of their strong player development system that has consistently churned out quality talent. The continued success of the franchise will be incumbent on that process continuing and one prospect who is a good bet to make an impact in 2013 is infielder Jeff Kobernus, who will bring a skill that is sorely lacking on the Nats; game changing speed.
Kobernus, who primarily plays second base, was drafted by the Nats in the 2nd round (50th overall selection) in 2009 out of the University of California- Berkley. He posted a .324 career batting average during his three seasons as a Golden Bear, earning a nod as All-Pac-10 as a junior. Despite his success at the plate, Kobernus drew interest as a top prospect because of his ability on the base paths. In 161 career college games he swiped 44 bases and showed impressive range on defense.
Since starting his professional career Kobernus has lived up to his reputation. The right-handed hitter has hit .279 over four seasons. He has only 12 home runs in 290 games, but has stolen an impressive total of 120 bases, including 53 in 2011 and 42 this season (in just 82 games). More information on his career statistics is available at here.
Although the Nats have Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond manning their middle infield positions, the speed of Kobernus is so unique and lacking from Washington’s current roster that it won’t be a surprise to see him in the majors before long. Prior to the start of this past season I was able to ask Kobernus some questions about his time in baseball, and found out more about this exciting prospect.
Jeff Kobernus Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: I always liked the Yankees; mainly because they always won and because my favorite player was the team captain, Derek Jeter. I love Derek because he plays the game the right way, is a class act, is consistent and clutch.
How did you know that the Nationals were interested in you?: I heard from about every team before the draft except the Nationals. I had no idea they had any interest until I actually was picked by them.
Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: I tried to stay relaxed but was very anxious for my name to get called. When it did, I was overly excited.
How much inspiration has your baseball career gotten from your father’s experiences in being a drafted player?: All of it came from him. I grew up around baseball and that was/is all I know. He always had me see the best instructors and take extra swings and extra groundballs.
What were your biggest successes and challenges from your first professional season?: Adjusting to the longer season and finding out pro ball is a lot different than college baseball.
I remember that during your first professional at bat in Vermont, during a swing, you lost control of the bat, and it went into the stands. Do you remember this, and if so, what were you feeling at the time?: I 100% remember. I was a little nervous and swung a little too hard. Afterwards, I was embarrassed, but was hoping I wouldn’t let go again. I hope no one got hurt.
Have you gotten any good advice from Washington players during spring training or when they have been on your team during rehab?: I haven’t talked to many, but the best advice I guess is you want to be in the MLB as soon as you can
What do you do for fun away from baseball?: Facebook, Twitter, video games, music, and hanging out with my teammates.