Last year, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski made what seemed like a depth move at the end of Spring Training by signing outfielder J.D. Martinez. Turns out, Martinez ended up starting the year off with 10 homers in AAA before April was even over, and broke out with the Tigers, hitting 23 homers and hitting over .300. In the minors, the Tigers had an even crazier story. That story was outfielder Wynton Bernard, the guy they just added to the 40 man roster.
Bernard went to a Tigers tryout after being released by the Padres organization and was the only guy signed out of the tryout camp. He was assigned to single A West Michigan and went on to be the Midwest League MVP. The question is, will Wynton Bernard be the Tigers next success story? We need to look at a few things to get the answer.
From a scouting standpoint, the 24-year-old outfielder is a speedy, athletic type of outfielder. He can play center field, but from watching him play, I think he’s better in right. He can steal some bases, but he gets caught a little too much, something that some seasoning can improve; he got caught 19 times, while stealing 45, which adds up to a 70% rate – this is something that needs to be around 80%, but most guys with 40+ steals in the league get caught around 15-20 times, so he can build on his performance.
Bernard has some pop, but he’s not going to hit more than 10-15 homers in a starting role. Bernard should start the year for High-A Lakeland or AA Erie, where he needs to continue his hard work and improve a little more, but with a hot stretch Bernard could get a shot in Detroit as soon as 2015. If he does, I think he can energize the Tigers similar to the way Quintin Berry did in 2012, but he has a lot more staying power.
Statistic wise, Bernard has to maintain. He did some pretty good things with West Michigan, like cutting his K rate in half, and having a .392 OBP. If Bernard can continue success at a higher level, he’s proving himself. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. As far as age goes, Bernard is a bit older as a prospect, but that doesn’t mean anything about his talent. 25 is usually right before the prime of your career. Bernard can help his case by mowing through the system this year and starting off hot. That’ll sell him to me. I believe in this guy’s talent, he’s just got to keep proving himself.
One thing I think could help him is hitting a few more line drives, even if it costs him a little power. It’ll help him maintain and even improve his average and OBP (since he takes walks). He’s more of a ground ball hitter, but if he can hit the holes, he’s all good. Bernard showed us he has the talent, enough to give him a 40-man roster spot, one I don’t think the Tigers will regret, but he has to keep getting better, and only time and Bernard will show us that.