Who is Wynton Bernard?
The Tigers announced a flurry of roster moves on Friday afternoon, resulting in a fair amount of turnover on their 40 man roster. Andy Dirks and Pat McCoywere claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, respectively. Don Kelly and Evan Reed were outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, though both can elect to become free agents. Bruce Rondon, Luke Putkonen, Drew VerHagen, andJose Iglesias were all reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.
The most surprising move of the day was the purchase of outfielder Wynton Bernard’scontract from Single-A West Michigan. Fans on the west side of the state may be familiar with Bernard from his spectacular play for the Whitecaps this season, but the vast majority of the fanbase probably heard his name for the first time this week. What can we expect from the newest addition to the 40 man roster?
Bernard is a 24 year old outfielder who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round of the 2012 draft. He spent two years in the Padres’ system but was released prior to Spring Training in 2014. Bernard signed a minor league free agent contract with the Tigers, and spent his age 23 season playing for the Single-A Whitecaps (he turned 24 on September 24th).
Bernard hit .323/.394/.442 with 42 extra base hits and six home runs in 583 plate appearances for the Whitecaps this year. A right-handed batter, Bernard walked in 9.6 percent of his plate appearances while striking out at a 14.8 percent clip. He also stole 45 bases in 64 attempts. His .323 average and 224 total bases both ranked fourth in the Midwest League. Bernard is a center fielder by trade, and his glove does not appear to be a detriment. He only committed four errors and had seven assists on the year.
While this sounds like an excellent season, there is a catch. At 23 years old, Bernard was much older than his competition in the Midwest League. An assignment to the Advanced-A Florida State League or Double-A Eastern League would have been more age-appropriate for Bernard. He should be expected to play as well as he did in a younger league.