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Tyler Wade is the Yankees’ dark-horse infield candidate

With all the attention on Brandon Drury, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres, Wade’s recent adjustments could vault him into the spotlight.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and Yankees youngster Tyler Wade make odd bedfellows, but I suppose so did Luis Severino and Pedro Martinez. Wade met the legend while working out in January, according to Pujols took a liking to him and offered some tips on a better swing. “I changed my hands and I’m bending my legs a little bit more,” Wade explained, “which is going to allow me to get to more pitches. I’m more direct. It’s less movement for me.”

Better results are likely a prerequisite for being considered for a starting—or even utility—spot come April, and his past performance didn’t inspire much confidence. A 17 wRC+ in 63 major league plate appearances is certainly a setback. Yet considering a walk rate that could hover around 10%, and a total of 132 professional stolen bases, an improved bat would make him a contender not only for a backup spot, but for a starting role at second base.

We got a taste of what his new swing looked last week, and I was already impressed:

Take a look at that swing in comparison to another double, his first major league hit:

This is worth taking an even closer look, comparing them based on what Pujols changed. There are some good things in his first swing —quick hands through the zone, and using the torque in his hips for line-drive power:

This spring, his hands go even quicker through the baseball. That extra bend in his knee gives him the extension to get a ball down in the zone as well:

Take these changes with a grain of salt, of course. We’re looking through a keyhole to determine true talent level based on changes in approach. It’s not like it doesn’t happen; it’s just hard to see these changes in a predictive manner.

The same thing happened with Aaron Judge last spring, where adding a little bend allowed him to have extra coverage of the plate and a smoother, quicker path through the zone. It was one of those changes that was noted and could possibly portend success, but it was unclear. We now know how that turned out.

What could this extra elevation mean during the season? Consider Wade’s existing minor league spray chart and how that would play into Yankee Stadium’s short porch:

Finally, to scout the stat line a little bit, his overall approach could also mean success combined with the new mechanics. Even if you think intuitively about a player like Billy Hamilton, the combination of on-base skills and speed makes the floor higher than usual. That’s why, for example, he could be a two-win player in 2015 with a 53 wRC+.

We don’t know what the future holds for Wade. My bet would be on him making the team, but as a backup. His path to a starting spot is going to be difficult with Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Didi Gregorius in the way. Injuries are always lingering, though. WITH the prospect of a new, simpler approach, there is a good chance we see him in 2018. He very well may surprise us all.