Earlier this offseason, left-hander Kyle Lobstein, the Rays’ second round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft, with the Tigers needing to keep him on their major league roster the entire season or offer him back to the Rays. That did not happen, but instead the Tigers elected to make a trade with the Rays to keep Lobstein, sending the Rays catching prospect Curt Casali to allow them to keep Lobstein and send him to their Double-A Erie affiliate.
Lobstein, 23, was a disappointment in the Rays organization and gets to try his luck with a change of scenery. Lobstein had a halfway-decent season at the Rays’ Double-A Montgomery affiliate in 2012, going 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA, an 8.1 K/9, a 4.3 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 27 starts and 144 innings pitched. The relatively high strikeout and walk rates might lead you to believe that Lobstein is a hard-thrower with control issues. That is decidedly not the case. Lobstein hit 92 MPH coming out of high school but has struggled to hit 90 MPH as a pro, usually sitting in the 86-88 MPH range, and although the pitch has some late life and he throws it for strikes, he has never done a good job commanding it down in the zone. Lobstein’s best pitch is easily his breaking ball, a high-70’s curveball that features sharp break when it’s at its best, but it gets slurvy at times and Lobstein often has trouble making it look like a strike. Lobstein’s third pitch is a circle changeup that he throws primarily to right-handed batters and does a good job selling with his arm action, but its movement has never been very impressive and it’s average at best overall. At 6’3″, 200, there is still hope that Lobstein might get some velocity back as his body he fills out, and with improved command he could be an innings-eating back-of-the-rotation starter in the major leagues. Otherwise, his arsenal could still be useful in a situational lefty role. The Rays kept waiting for Lobstein’s previous stuff to come back and his pitches to develop, but it never happened, and with plenty of pitching in the organization, they finally decided to give up.
In exchange for Lobstein, the Rays actually managed to get themselves an intriguing prospect at a position of organizational need, catcher. Casali, 24, was a 10th round pick by the Tigers in 2010 and is coming off a strong season between Low-A and High-A, managing a .270/.365/.427 line with 25 doubles, 9 homers, 43 RBI, and a 46-38 strikeout to walk ratio in 94 games and 385 plate appearances. Casali also managed a 33% CS%, allowing only 4 passed balls. One big thing to note was that Casali was old for Low-A and saw his performance slip quite a bit at High-A, managing just a .250/.322/.350 line with 28 strikeouts against 11 walks. In any event, Casali is a player who does nothing exceptionally but does is a solid player in just about every phase of the game for a catcher. He shows average bat speed with a compact swing and a patient approach at the plate. His pitch recognition isn’t great, but he has a chance to be a player who doesn’t strike out too often while drawing his fair share of walks, which is always nice. Casali is a big, strong guy at 6’2″, 220, but his tendency towards contact limits his power. Defensively, Casasli features solid arm strength, losing what had been a plus tool when he underwent Tommy John Surgery in college, and also good actions behind the plate and a decent ability to block pitches in the dirt. Between Casali’s offensive and defensive talents, he could be at least a backup catcher who’s competent on both sides of the ball if everything goes well. For a Rays organization where basically all their catching prospects are rawer players drafted out of high school or signed internationally, Casali is a nice change of pace, and getting him for a player in Lobstein who they were done with is a nice value.
In this trade, the Tigers received a left-hander with a chance to play a role for them in the near future while the Rays added depth at a position of organizational need and found a player with some future value of his own. Both teams were able to turn players they had no need for into players of interest, and this trade looks like a win-win or at least a worthwhile gamble for both sides. Trades like this are certainly not the intention of the Rule 5 Draft, but no one will complain when it facilitates trades that satisfy everyone involved.