Through all the injuries and early-season chaos, one thing that’s stood out to me is how the Yankees have — or rather, haven’t — used Tyler Wade. Even with a handful of injuries around the diamond, Wade still isn’t much more than a bench piece. Now, the Yankees likely aren’t going to come right out and say they don’t believe in Wade, but their attitude towards him seems to indicate just that. Troubling as that might be, the Yankees do have a solid track record when it comes to talent evaluation. If Tyler Wade isn’t getting a ton of playing time, history shows the Yankees probably have a good reason why.
The book on Wade has been out for a while — a solid glove with good speed, but just hasn’t hit enough to stick around in the big leagues. Regardless, Tyler Wade seemed a shoe-in for a roster spot and significant playing time as recently as a few weeks ago. He had a great spring training offensively, and defensively, he spent time all over the field. Plus, the Yankees publicly claimed they didn’t want to carry two first basemen, and Clint Frazier still looked rusty after missing most of 2018. I wrote about how Wade’s defensive versatility could carry him onto the major league team. However, the Yankees’ front office quickly proved me wrong (not the first time) and traded for outfielder Mike Tauchman, who took the final bench spot.
Wade wasn’t exactly thrilled with the news he would start the year in Triple-A. In conversations with reporters, he indicated the Yankees weren’t completely satisfied with his defensive ability in the outfield and that it was one of the primary reasons he didn’t make the final cut.
News of Miguel Andujar’s injury on April 1st necessitated Wade’s promotion to the big leagues, but that hasn’t translated into significant playing time. With Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki both on the injured list, the Yankees needed to fill one full-time infield spot with either Giovanny Urshela or Tyler Wade, and it appears the Yankees have chosen Urshela.
We’re dealing with a small sample size to be sure, but Urshela hasn’t had a day off since joining the active roster on April 6th, whereas Wade’s continued to play the bench role. At multiple points this season, the Yankees chose not to go with Wade when he might have seemed like the clear choice.
On one hand, this seems strange. Tyler Wade’s a former fourth-round pick and spent time on nearly every top prospect list. Only a few years ago, Yankee fans envisioned Tyler Wade as the player DJ LeMahieu has been so far this season. Wade’s usage in 2019 indicates the Yankees no longer have that same vision of the future. The Yankees do have a solid history of accurately evaluating their players, and if they’re playing lesser-known guys over Wade, they surely have a reason. The Yankees have proven to be adept at giving playing time to the right players.
In recent seasons, the Yankees brought in Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Luke Voit, and each of those guys greatly raised their stock since landing in the Bronx. The Yankees saw something they valued in those players, gave them chances to prove themselves, and saw them prove their valuations correct. Likewise, remember all the fan clamor for Miguel Andujar in 2017 and Rob Refsnyder a few years before that? The Yankees held Andujar down for virtually all of 2017 and brought Brandon Drury in for 2018 because they didn’t completely trust Andujar’s glove. Even though he had a great rookie campaign at the plate, Andujar showed us all last year the Yankees’ reservations about his defense were valid.
The same goes for Refsnyder, who tore up every level of the minor leagues between 2013 and 2014. Yankee fans, including myself, went nuts watching Refsnyder rake while Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew got significant playing time with the big league club. Now, Refsnyder is on his fifth organization in three years and hasn’t ever played at a league average level.
All of this is to say, the Yankees don’t seem to have a lot of confidence left in Tyler Wade. Despite the prospect pedigree and the availability of playing time, the Yankees haven’t been quick to give him any kind of extended look in the big leagues in 2019, and if that is the case throughout the season, chances are team has a good reason why.