Remember the outcry around Tyler Wade at the end of spring training this year? Wade had just come off an admirable spring, slashing .308/.345/.500 and playing all over the infield and outfield. It didn’t look like there was much more he could do to solidify his spot on the roster.
Instead, the Yankees shocked everyone by demoting Wade and acquiring little-known Mike Tauchman to round out the roster. When asked about the reasoning to go with Tauchman over him, Wade made it very clear that team management didn’t trust his outfield defense:
“That they need a real outfielder,” Wade said was the reason for his demotion. “Apparently I’m not.”
Demoting Wade after that spring was cold business. Some thought it could have led to the end of his tenure as a Yankee. Instead, Wade went to Triple-A, worked hard, and is back contributing for the Yankees. Just check out what Boone, the same manager who demoted Wade for his outfield defense in March, had to say about his fielding now:
“He’s really, really gifted defensively,” Boone said. “There’s a couple of positions on the field where I feel like defensively speaking, he’s elite. You put him at second base, there’s very few people that can play second like him. He plays defense with a lot of confidence, even when we’ve seen him in the outfield.
“I feel good about him, wherever we put him.”
Isn’t it amazing how much can change over six months? If the Yankees really feel this strongly about Wade’s defense, he may be an intriguing player to fit onto the postseason roster.
First, Wade’s greatest attribute is his speed. His 29 feet per second sprint speed is the fastest on the team, according to Statcast. That speed can help the Yankees big time in the playoffs, when pinch runners are very important. Just ask Cameron Maybin, who earned a World Series ring for the 2017 Astros essentially by playing the role of the super-reserve outfielder and go-to pinch runner.
The Yankees have been stricken by injury in the outfield. Aaron Hicks and Mike Tauchman are just about out for the season, and Giancarlo Stanton’s availability is still in question. The team doesn’t seem interested in keeping Clint Frazier on the postseason roster, but Wade might have a shot because of his extra speed and positional versatility.
The starting outfield in the playoffs will hopefully be Stanton-Gardner-Judge left to right, with Maybin the chief reserve. As for the infield, Gio Urshela, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit and Edwin Encarnacion are all making the team, plus two catchers. That makes 12 position players, but the Yankees carried 13 in last year’s playoffs due to the lack of need for a fifth starter.
If it comes down to a choice between Kyle Higashioka, Frazier, Wade, Thairo Estrada or Mike Ford, Wade might just make the most sense. He can play anywhere and has speed to burn. While the other players are really only good at one specific thing, Wade can help in a couple of ways.
Additionally, while Wade is still a light hitter and shouldn’t ever be getting postseason at-bats, he has also improved a little bit at the plate. He has improved his walk rate, lowered his strikeout rate, and increased his hard-hit percentage. It’s way too early to say that Wade has turned a corner after 80 plate appearances this season, but he’s earned another look at the roster next season, at least.
Ultimately, Tyler Wade is (hopefully) not going to be the reason the Yankees are winning or losing postseason games, but he has earned a spot on the postseason roster. Versatility is key in the playoffs, and Wade just offers more than a guy like Frazier or Ford. If the Yankees are looking for a potential X-factor off the bench in the playoffs, Tyler Wade’s their guy.