Jose Lobaton Shipped To Nationals
The announcement that Karns had been notified by the Nationals of the trade was broke by Washington Posts Adam Kilgore (Twitter) and Bill Ladson (Twitter) and the additional unknown minor league players included in the deal was announced by Tampa Bay Times Marc Topkin (Twitter).
The Rays included a pair of 22-year old prospects in left handed pitcher Felipe Rivero who was 9-7 with a 3.40 ERA with the Rays High-A affiliate Charlotte Stone Crabs and his teammate outfielder Drew Vettleson who posted a triple slash line of .274/.331/.388 spanning 516 plate appearances.
Rivero was on the Rays 40-man roster and his inclusion in the trade has opened a spot.
The 28-year old switch hitting catcher started 76 games for the Rays last year 50 games versus right handed starters and 26 against lefties. He set a club record (81 game minimum) in fielding percentage (.996) committing just 3 errors and his 2 passed balls were the fewest of any qualified catcher in the majors in 2013.
Overall, he hit .249/.320/.394 with 7 home runs. He was better against right handed pitching (.253/.333/.412 with 6 of his home runs) than he was versus left handed pitching (.242/.295/.358).
One of the highlights of the Rays 2013 season was his two walk off hits in back-to-back appearances against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The moment was extra special for Lobaton as his parents Tomas and Maria were visiting from Venezuela to watch him play for the first time in the United States.
On August 16th he was behind the plate in the top of the ninth and the Blue Jays had runners on the corner and 2-out. Fernando Rodney uncorked a pitch that seemed destined to make its way back to the screen but Lobaton stabbed it and Rodney got Brett Lawrie to groundout to shortstop Yunel Escobar to end the inning. In the bottom of the frame he faced lefty Aaron Loup and delivered a walk-off triple that drove in Escobar all the way from first.
On August 18th he bailed out another teammate with a big hit. In the 7th inning Sean Rodriguez strayed too far off 3rd base on a safety squeeze attempt short circuiting a potential go-ahead run. He came up in the 10th inning against Brad Lincoln and delivered a walk-off solo homer to right.
It was customary to give him ice cream after he delivered a big hit and after the walk-off homer against the Blue Jays he as given about 10 different ice cream novelties but that was nothing compared to a tub of ice cream waiting for him on the teams charter flight leading to the following tweets:
I told our clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland to have a vat of ice cream on the plane for Lobaton. He earned it.
Nate Karns who turned 26 in November was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2009 draft from Texas Tech University. Immediately after being drafted he suffered a torn labrum causing him to miss the remainder of the 2009 season and all of the 2010 season.
He returned in 2011 appearing in just 8 games with the Nationals High-A affiliate Auburn Doubledays and stuggled with his command walking 27 batters in just 36.2 innings of work.
His 2012 season was spent split between the Nationals Class A affiliate Hagerstown Suns and High A affiliate Potomac Nationals appearing in 24 games (18 starts) posting a record of 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA with a strikeout rate of 11.5 K/9 and a walk rate of 3.6 BB/9.
His 2012 strong performance was rewarded when he was called up to replace the injured Ross Detwiler in May. He made three starts going o-1 with a 7.50 (12 innings of work) before returning to the Nationals Double A affiliate Harrisburg Senators where he finished the season. His final numbers for the Senators was 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA with a strikeout rate of 10.5 K/9 and a walk rate of 3.3 BB/9. After his return to the Senators he finished the season with a 2.57 ERA.
Baseball America ranks him ninth on the Nationals Top 10 prospects list calling him a “physical and aggressive” pitcher. The scouting report says that he attacks with a 91-95 mph power sinker that can hit 98 at times. His second pitch is classified as a wipeout curveball that he throws in the range of 82-85 mph. In order to become more than a set-up man he is going to have to refine his change up, which he throws 83-85 mph, and consistently throw it for strikes. (Baseball America Subscription Req’d)
Video From Major League Debut Against Orioles: