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 McCoy were 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, and Jose Iglesias were all reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.
The most surprising move of the day was the purchase of outfielder Wynton Bernard's contract 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.
So what do the scouts say about Bernard? Luckily, we have a few connections here. Baseball Prospectus scout/writer and BYB contributor Jordan Gorosh gave us a quick synopsis of Bernard's profile on Friday.
@BYBRob fringy hitter, below avg power, 55 runner, 50 fielder. Role 4 upside— Jordan Gorosh (@JGoro8) October 31, 2014
For those that do not know, scouts grade on a 20 to 80 scale. A 50 grade represents a league average skill. The grades listed above represent Bernard's ceiling, or the best outcome one could reasonably expect from someone with Bernard's skill set. With slightly above average speed and an average glove, Bernard projects as a bench option at best. Sounds like an Andy Dirks-type player, right? Not so much.
@BYBRob no, I don't think he has a ceiling that high. When healthy, dirks is a role 5, and hits LH.— Jordan Gorosh (@JGoro8) October 31, 2014
People can be biased, though. Let's see what another prospect hound had to say.
An org player signed off the scrap heap last winter, 24 year old that plays hard, short on ability RT @Mattyshack: who is Wynton Bernard?— Mark Anderson (@TigsTownMark) October 31, 2014
Unless the Tigers see something we don't, adding Bernard to the 40 man roster is a puzzling (and somewhat onerous) move. Bernard isn't eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, so his addition to the 40 man roster had nothing to do with protecting him from other clubs. It remains to be seen what exactly the Tigers have in store for Bernard in 2015, but unless the Tigers have unearthed a hidden gem, we should temper our expectations for Wynton Bernard going forward.
Correction: Bernard is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, since he was released by the Padres then signed by the Tigers. Still a puzzling move, though.
Correction to the correction: Bernard would have been a free agent after this season, but is not Rule 5 eligible. Putting him on the 40 man roster prevents him from signing with another team. Still a puzzling move, though.