Following the news that Danny Espinosa has bone chips and will need prolonged rest, if not a stint on the DL, the Washington Nationals have promoted IF/OF Jeff Kobernus from the Syracuse Chiefs.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Kobernus over the past six months. He was selected by Boston then traded to Detroit in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft in December and played well into the spring for the Tigers before his return in late March. The experience may have proved beneficial, as he was asked to play outfield for Detroit to make the club as a utilityman — a position he hadn’t played since his collegiate days.
Upon his return to Nationals, he was assigned to the Chiefs and continued to play outfield, mostly in left field (19 games) but occasionally in center (9 games) as well as second and third base (12 and 3 games). More noticeable was the hot start as the 24-y.o. batted .367/.408/.467 with a home run and eight stolen bases in April.
He’s cooled some in May (.298/.344/.369) but has picked up the pace on the basepaths with 13 steals this month. Speed is his calling card as the Nats’ 2009 2nd Round Pick out of California led the Carolina League with 53 steals in 2011 and the Eastern League with 42 last season despite playing only 82 games.
To make room on the 40-man roster, RHP Yunesky Maya was designated for assignment (as previously hinted in this space). Putting it as mildly as possible, Maya has been a tremendous disappointment, signed as an international free agent as a Cuban defector in 2010 for four years and $6 million. In three-plus seasons, he’s pitched 59 innings at the major-league level — all but 1/3rd in 2010 and 2011 — and 367⅔ innings in the minors, mostly at AAA.
Last season was the only one in which he had an ERA below 4.00 as the 31-year-old went 11-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 28 starts for Syracuse.
RHP Taylor Jordan was also promoted, going from Harrisburg to Syracuse, though it’s likely to be a temporary move that will be reversed once Maya’s fate is ultimately determined. Likewise for the shift of RHP Brian Rauh from Hagerstown to Harrisburg, a move to replace whichever reliever (best guess: Matt Swynenberg) replaces Jordan in the rotation when his turn comes up next.