The Los Angeles Angels claimed infielder Andrew Velazquez off waivers 20 days ago. Then, after the Yankees designated Tyler Wade for assignment last week, LA traded for Wade in exchange for a player to be named later. The Angels are adding speed to their team, that’s for sure. Other than that, the utility players don’t bring a whole lot else to the table.
Let’s start with Tyler Wade, who is coming off his best season in the majors. Wade slashed .268/.354/.323 in 2021 with a 92 wRC+ and 0.9 fWAR over 103 games. Those are pretty solid numbers for a player of his caliber and expected role on the team. However, the recently-turned 27-year-old saw a drop in hard-hit balls this year, which was an already low number. An average exit velocity of 82.2 mph and a 13.8-percent hard hit rate were both career lows — by a lot. Granted, Wade did see the most plate appearances of his career with 145, but the more at-bats a player gets helps decipher what type of player they are in a larger sample size. Wade also saw a career low in barrel percentage with 1.1 percent. His offensive numbers were a little better overall in comparison to previous seasons, but the drop in batted ball numbers I just mentioned are a telling sign that he could easily regress back to the player he was before 2021.
I understand that Wade is not a player who is going to hit the ball incredibly hard and over the fence. His role on the Yankees was to come off the bench as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner. He did lead New York in stolen bases this season, proving his value on the basepaths, but was a poor defender in 2021. He had -4 defensive runs saved at shortstop and -5 DRS at second base in only 63.1 innings, which was the worst DRS number out of any second baseman the Yankees had in 2021. Yes, worse than Gleyber Torres, who played 106 more innings at second than Wade did. That’s a total of -9 DRS in the infield for T-Wade. If he could only really contribute with his legs, a minimal amount with his bat, and cost the Yankees mightily with his glove, how valuable was he?
Andrew Velazquez had a very similar role to Wade, but also had a cool story that every Yankees fan fell in love with. He grew up in the Bronx as a Yankees fan, has family there, and even hit his first career home run at Yankee Stadium. The Andrew Velazquez Experience was a fun one, but the Yanks aren’t too upset over his departure.
In 28 games, Velazquez hit .224/.235/.358 with a .594 OPS and 57 wRC+. He was a non-factor at the plate, especially with his 33.8-percent strikeout rate. But his job wasn’t to be an amazing hitter at the dish — he was there, like Wade, to be a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He stole four bases, which was tied for the fifth-most on the team.
However, Velazquez did not flash the leather all that well. He made three errors at shortstop in 180.1 innings there, paired with an outs above average of -4. To put that number into context, Gleyber Torres had a -9 OAA at short in 2021, among the worst in all of Major League Baseball. Despite that figure, he played 735.1 more innings than Velazquez did, meaning Velazquez could have been well on his way to “topping” Torres’ awful OAA number. As I stated with Wade, if Velazquez barely contributed with his legs, virtually nothing with his bat, and cost the Yankees mightily with his glove, how valuable was he?
Too many fans believed that Velazquez should have started over Torres or were heartbroken to see both him and Wade pushed away, but they surely aren’t better options to play over any of the infielders the Yankees currently have. Being a contact hitter is fine if you’re a good enough hitter to make up for the lack of power, but these players just didn’t fit the bill. That’s why they’re no longer in New York. Besides, there are plenty of free agent utility players that the Yankees can — and most likely will — turn to in order to replace/upgrade over Wade and Velazquez.