Tyler Wade has been a familiar name to Yankees fans since he made his major league debut with the team in the summer of 2017. He has since bounced up and down between the majors and minors, playing just 109 games for the Yankees heading into 2020. Wade’s supporters posited that Wade could perform better with regular playing time. Finally given that chance this season, Wade has struggled to prove that his bat is major league worthy.
With DJ LeMahieu getting a late start on the Yankees summer camp due to a positive COVID test, Wade earned the starting nod on opening day, recording a hit and a walk as the Yankees defeated the Nationals. By the end of the night Wade had recorded a .304/.373/.543 line over his last 24 major league games. It looked as if Wade’s bat was coming around and could be an asset that complimented his defensive versatility.
The positive signs did not last, and Wade struggled to find at-bats. With the Yankees regular starting infield back in the mix, and an expanded roster of players finding reps, Wade registered just 13 plate appearances in his first 13 games of the season as he was relegated to a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement.
When the injury bug struck the Yankees, knocking both LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres from the lineup, Wade gained the opportunity of consistent playing time that had eluded him over the course of his major league career. Since August 14th, Wade has played in 27 of the Yankees’ 28 games, starting 20 of them and registering 66 plate appearances.
Given the most consistent playing time of his major league career while exclusively playing middle infield, Wade has missed a prime opportunity by hitting just .155/.242/.293 over the last month. His weak contact rate of 7.8% is more than double the league average of 3.1%, and his speed has been neutralized by an inability to reach first base safely.
The opportunities for Wade to finish strong will be limited as the Yankees have seen Torres and LeMahieu return with an offensive flourish. Gio Urshela is also scheduled to return soon, and Wade is likely destined to finish the season in the pinch-running and defensive replacement role that he began with.
All is not lost for Wade on this season, as despite carrying just a 47 wRC+ on the season he still has recorded a 0.2 WAR on the strength of his defensive ability at both shortstop and second base. Wade appears to be a slightly above average second baseman defensively, but is below average when evaluated at shortstop. Wade has also continued to steal bases efficiently, and has not been caught in his last 11 attempts at the major league level dating back to 2018.
Tyler Wade’s speed and defensive versatility have earned him repeated chances with the Yankees over the last four seasons. What he has is a consistent spot in the lineup. This year, when injuries opened the door for the young middle infielder, he has struggled to make an offensive impact, wasting what is likely to be his best, and perhaps last, opportunity to show a viable major league bat.