Tyler Wade has come and gone from the Yankees' 25-man roster numerous times over the last three seasons. Counted on for his defensive versatility and elite speed, Wade has been a stopgap at numerous positions of need. This versatility has drawn comparisons to Ben Zobrist, who for nearly a decade was the gold-standard for super-utility players, and there are many similarities in their games.
From the first time that Tyler Wade was plugged into the outfield to fill a need in 2017, the name Ben Zobrist has been thrown around as to what Yankees fans hope he will turn into.
Zobrist comparisons have been tempting since the first time Wade was plugged into the outfield to fill a need in 2017. Wade was drafted as a shortstop, though, in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, and rose through the system playing mostly at short and second.
After playing well enough for Double-A Trenton in 2016 to earn a trip to the Arizona Fall League with many of the best prospects in the sport, Wade’s trajectory began to change. With Didi Gregorius entrenched at shortstop in the majors, and with the recently acquired Gleyber Torres ranked as one of the best prospects in baseball, Wade’s defensive future needed some diversity. That fall in the AFL, Wade started to see some time in the outfield as the organization sought to find an outlet for his speed and abilities.
The next season after being called up to the majors, Wade saw action at four different positions for the Yankees, and six positions while playing for Triple-A Scranton. While the then-22-year-old struggled with the bat, Yankees fans began to see the potential for their version of Ben Zobrist, who was coming off an eight-season stretch where he produced a 123 OSP+ while playing every position except catcher for Tampa, Oakland, Kansas City, and the Chicago Cubs.
Wade’s offense has yet to consistently come around at the big league level, and his struggles to this point are very similar to Zobrist’s numbers at the same stage of his career. Wade in his first 241 plate appearances has hit .197/.268/.292. Through his first two years in the major leagues Zobrist hit .200/.234/.275 while also seeing plenty of action in the minor leagues.
Zobrist began hitting during his third season in the majors, which was the same season the Rays began to use him all over the diamond. With the addition of the 26th man on the active roster, Tyler Wade is a strong candidate to fill that role due to his versatility. In addition to playing six positions on the field, Wade is nine for 10 in stolen base attempts in his major league career, including a perfect seven for seven last season without getting caught.
Wade has numerous paths onto the field for the Yankees, and the team is hoping that his offensive improvement at the end of last season is something that he can build on. Wade hit .289/.347/.533 over his last 23 major league games in 2019, including two home runs. This offensive production through the end of the season was by far his most productive stretch as a major leaguer.
Now 25-years-old and with significant major league experience, Tyler Wade is positioned to contribute to the Yankees in 2020 and moving forward. Will he make the most of his opportunities and turn into the outstanding offensive and defensive weapon that Ben Zobrist was? Matching Zobrist’s 45.1 bWAR would obviously be an outlandish outcome for Wade, but he does have the chance to become a steady contributor for the Yankees. Wade’s early career struggles are far from unique, and he has now entered the time in his career where he needs to learn from his past experience and start cashing in on the opportunities he can generate for himself through his unique defensive skill-set.