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Tyler Wade has his chance with the Yankees

Wade was left off the Opening Day roster to the confusion of many, but now is his time to shine.

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Tyler Wade has had an interesting journey as a Yankee. He was a well-regarded prospect for a few years in the minors, but he has not produced yet at the major league level. Still, Wade owns quality numbers at Triple-A. His profile, that of a speedy contact hitter with ample defensive versatility, is also an intriguing one to a Yankees club that could use a little bit of each of those things.

Nonetheless, an interesting skillset wasn’t enough to keep the Yankees from cutting Wade, who failed to make the Opening Day roster despite hitting .308 and playing six different positions in the spring. Wade voiced his frustration, and it was unclear if or when his next chance to produce for the Yankees would come.

However, things have a funny way of working out in baseball. With the Yankees facing a veritable laundry list of injuries, Wade now has his best chance yet to carve out a role with the Yankees and back up his words.

Wade didn’t return to the roster because the Yankees changed their minds, or because he had a chance to force the issue with his play in the minors. He came back because injuries to Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton have the Yankees dangerously short on bats, particularly in the infield. While Stanton should be back by the end of the month, Andujar’s injury is more problematic; he could potentially miss the entirety of the season.

The Yankees expect DJ LeMahieu to hold down the fort at the hot corner while Andujar heals, but Wade will still have ample opportunity. Troy Tulowitzki has shown flashes, but he just went down with a calf strain during Wednesday’s game with the Tigers. Tulowitzki may only miss a short time, but even if he does, the Yankees must plan for more missed time and rest days for the 34-year-old shortstop going forward. Ditto Brett Gardner, who probably shouldn’t be an every-day center fielder at 35 years old.

Luckily, Wade has experience at all of these positions. There is a very likely scenario where Wade appears in five out of seven games in a week – one in the outfield while Gardner sits, a pair of games spelling Gleyber Torres, or LeMahieu, one or two replacing Tulowitzki, and one more for defensive or pinch-running purposes. Essentially, Wade shifts into LeMahieu’s expected role while LeMahieu becomes a regular.

Wade has never had this opportunity with the Yankees before. Now, at 24 years old and having voiced his frustration, it’s put up or shut up time. He hasn’t gotten many chances to contribute with the Yankees yet, but he also hasn’t done all that much (outside of this spring training) to earn any more at-bats. While his defense and speed are solid, he needs to prove he can hit enough to stick in the big leagues.

Anecdotally, age-24 looks like a prime cutoff point for evaluating MLB talent. Last year alone, Johan Camargo, Ketel Marte, Jose Peraza, Jeimer Candelario and Dansby Swanson all had crucial seasons at that age, and all are still MLB regulars today because they grew as hitters. Elsewhere, the likes of Lewis Brinson, Albert Almora, and Scott Kingery face more uncertain futures after struggling as they progressed through their early- to mid-20’s. If Wade can’t hit this year, he may never receive this clear a chance again, at least not with the Yankees.

Wade will never be an elite hitter, but I’d say he only has to slash something along the lines of .265/.330/.370 to be a quality bench player. That is certainly doable. Combine that with the fact that he’s the fastest player on the team and that he can play all across the diamond, and the blueprint is there for a compelling semi-regular in the bigs. The tools are all there for Tyler Wade. He just has to put them together.