With just 25 days left until Spring Training, we're still skirting around the edges of the Tigers roster (hey, there has to be some suspense, right?). Today's topic: Quintin Berry.
What happened last season?
Berry was a valuable spark plug for the Tigers when Austin Jackson missed 21 games in May and June, hitting .288/.356/.409 in the 16 games that he started while Jackson was on the disabled list. Berry's contributions continued to aid the Tigers while Andy Dirks missed time; he was still hitting .282/.364/.383 when Dirks returned from the disabled list on August 3rd. After that, however, Berry's numbers took a nosedive. He hit just .195/.239/.280 in 91 plate appearances throughout the rest of the regular season, most of which came while splitting time with Avisail Garcia in September and October.
Oh, and I guess I should mention that he stole 21 bases in 21 attempts during the regular season, though I'm still not sure what happened on that weird "steal attempt" in Cleveland. But hey, perfection still counts even if the umpire screws up, right?
What needs to happen in 2013?
For starters, Berry needs to have another monster spring in Lakeland if he's going to even make the roster. While his contributions last season were either under- or over-appreciated depending on which section of the fanbase you poll, Berry's speed and intensity was an integral part of the team's success in 2012. While that's all well and good, he can't expect to make a team with a logjam in the outfield simply based on the fact that he's Not Brennan Boesch. The organization still sees potential in Actual Brennan Boesch, and Boesch will be making a lot more money than Berry.
That said, Berry needs to cut down on the strikeouts that plagued him over the latter half of the 2012 season. His strikeout rate increased from 20.8% in June to 24.5% in July, and again to 30.0% in August when his playing time decreased after Andy Dirks returned to the lineup. Additionally, Berry struck out in a whopping 37.7% of his at bats against left-handed pitchers. If he wants to nudge out Boesch and/or Dirks for playing time, this number needs to drop significantly.
2012 stats and 2013 projections
The part where I predict pretty much the same thing Bill James does
Honestly, I don't see Berry making the team out of camp this year.* This isn't to say that he's not deserving; he outperformed Boesch last season and his skill set brings more to the table than Boesch, provided that Boesch isn't in the increasingly rare scalding hot form we have seen flashes of over the last few years.
*Depending on how far you want to read between the lines, Berry wasn't mentioned when Jim Leyland talked about new base stealing consultant Jeff Cox.
Berry's speed is a huge asset for a team that still isn't very fast. However, he no longer provides an upgrade on defense over any of the outfield starters and the other two guys playing left field also bat left-handed. While I would personally like to see Berry make the roster over Boesch, I think the Tigers will go with Boesch as a fourth outfielder and use either Jeff Kobernus or Don Kelly in more of a utility role, leaving Berry as the odd man out once again.