A month ago, most people outside of Detroit didn’t know who Jeff Kobernus was.

But this season, Kobernus will be on everyone’s radar, and will make a surprise impact for the Detroit Tigers.

Kobernus, a natural second baseman from San Leandro, Calif., was the Washington Nationals‘ second-round pick in the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of University of California Berkley.

The 24-year-old spent most of last season with the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, Harrisburg, where he batted .282 with a .325 on-base percentage, one home run and 19 RBI in 82 games.

While those numbers aren’t anything to bat an eyelash at, Kobernus caught the attention of major league scouts after stealing 42 bases in 53 attempts last season.

His 42 stolen bases—in 82 games, mind you—was twice as many as the Tigers’ leading base-stealer last season, Quintin Berry.

Kobernus was a Rule 5 pickup for the Tigers last December, and although he has played second base his whole professional career, his best chance to produce in Detroit for now will be in left field, platooning with Andy Dirks.

Manager Jim Leyland has made it no secret he’s intrigued with having a right-handed hitter platooning in left field to give the Tigers an edge against left-handed pitching, and so far, Kobernus has held his own against lefties this spring.

He’s hitting .333 (4-for-12) with a triple, an RBI and three walks against left-handers in Grapefruit League action, and batting .294 (10-for-34), overall.

Andy Dirks is hitting .308, with one home run and two RBI in 26 at-bats this spring, but Dirks is only entering his third major league season and has been plagued with injuries in both of his first two years.

Leyland has had his eye on Kobernus throughout the spring, and likes his plate approach as well as weapon of speed he brings to the Tigers.

“I thought he had two or three outstanding at-bats,” Leyland said to MLive.com’s Chris Iott after Saturday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “Terrific at-bats, starting with the first one of the game. He worked a walk after getting in a hole. The at-bat he had in the last inning was a terrific at-bat.”

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