If 2020 played out as usual, Tyler Wade may not have made the New York Yankees Opening Day roster. Instead, he not only made the roster for the second time, but he started at second base Thursday against the Washington Nationals, filling in for DJ LeMahieu.
Wade’s value has been apparent since his first appearance on a Yankees top-prospects list. He brings speed and a left-handed bat to a Yankees lineup overloaded with right-handed power. His defensive versatility is also a plus. The issue for Wade is getting on base, something he has done at a .274 clip in 243 career plate appearances.
“I think he’s got it in him to be a guy that controls the strike zone…,” said manager Aaron Boone. “Not chasing would be the difference between him being a really good major leaguer or struggling.”
Wade’s ability to control the strike zone is a direct cause of his low on-base percentage. He strikes out 28.8% of the time at the MLB level while walking 8.8% of the time. Those are not the numbers a manager wants from someone with Wade’s ability.
When he does get on base, he adds a different dynamic to the lineup and his teammates take notice.
“That’s one of Tyler’s tools,” said Aaron Judge. “He can get on base, he can bunt to get on, he can hit it to get on. He’s a smart baserunner. Having him in the nine hole, he’s going to be something special for us.”
Boone shares in Judge’s sentiments.
“It’s one thing to have speed, but he’s a great baserunner. If he can get on base enough, he’s a guy who really effects the game. With good versatility, he’s a guy that can be really valuable.”
Opening Day Performance
In the third inning of Thursday’s game, Wade’s skill was on full display. He led off the inning by working the count full against Max Scherzer and taking a cutter out of the zone for a walk. From there, Wade was inside Scherzer’s head. He made three pickoff attempts while facing Aaron Hicks, and then he left a fastball in the middle of the zone for Judge to pull down the line. Wade was able to score from first to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
In the box score, that shows as an RBI double for Judge, but looking past the numbers, it symbolizes another layer waiting to be unlocked by an already daunting lineup. Judge loves seeing Wade contribute to a victory. The two were first teammates with the Charleston RiverDogs in A-Ball.
“I was joking with him…’Hey man it’s just like the Charleston days,'” said Judge.
Roles For Wade
Although the starting second base job does not belong to Wade in the long run in 2020, his speed allows him to impact the game off the bench as well. Naturally, his speed and ability to run the bases make him a great stolen base threat. In MLB, he has nine steals to one caught stealing. That includes a perfect seven-for-seven in 2019. He has swiped 164 bases since turning professional in 2013.
That will come in handy in pinch-running situations, but it will be equally as important to the team should the team reach extra innings. Wade’s speed, which sat in the 93rd percentile in 2019, makes him the perfect candidate to head to second base as is the new rule implemented by MLB for this abbreviated season.
Tyler Wade still aspects of his game that need improvement, but on Thursday night he showed the impact he has when he gets on base and puts his best skills to use.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images