By Jason Shetler
In the 2008 MLB Draft, Kyle Lobstein was a second round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays. Prior to the 2013 season, the New York Mets chose him in the Rule 5 Draft before then getting purchased by the Detroit Tigers that same day. Lobstein made his big league debut for the Tigers in August of 2014, and also pitched for them last season.
This past offseason, the Pirates acquired Lobstein from the Tigers for cash considerations. While he’s not competing for a spot in the rotation, he has a chance to be in the Pirates bullpen come Opening Day. My guess however is that Eric O’Flaherty will make the club as the second lefty along with Tony Watson since Lobstein has options remaining. Although most view Lobstein as below average, here’s why I believe he could be a real sleeper for the Pirates this season.
During his two seasons with the Tigers, Lobstein posted a 5.33 ERA, but his Fielding Independent Pitching was exactly a full run lower at 4.33, so he was more respectable than terrible. In 2015, he made the transition to a sinkerball pitcher. He threw the sinker 33% of the time and the four-seam fastball at 23%, this after throwing the four-seamer at 56% and no sinker at all the year before. The result was having a 52% groundball rate last season, which was a 7% increase from 2014. Lobstein will likely get an opportunity to join the Pirates, in the event of an injury or the struggles of another pitcher. If he’s able to continue getting groundballs consistently, and takes advantage of the Bucs heavy dose of infield shifts, then he could be a decent contributor for them in 2016.