I am devastated by the loss of Didi Gregorius, like I’m sure many Yankees fans out there are as well. Gregorius suffered a shoulder injury during the World Baseball Classic as a member of the Netherlands national team. While this certainly shouldn’t be an indictment of the WBC itself, it’s just a reality we’re going to have to live with.
The question, of course, is how long Gregorius is going to be out of action, to which I answer: who the heck knows. At first the Yankees said he would cease baseball activities for two weeks, and then Brian Cashman said that he likely wouldn’t return until May. I’m not going to speculate that he’s going to be out longer, but I’m also not getting my hopes up that he’ll be back sooner than expected.
Luckily for the organization, they have quite a few options for the middle infield (remember the days of Stephen Drew?!). They have Starlin Castro, who can play both second base and shortstop. They have Ronald Torreyes, who, while likely replacement-level, can play both positions as well. They have Rob Refsnyder, who can play second base. Last but not least—and the subject of this piece—is Tyler Wade, a shortstop who has yet to make his big league debut.
What’s interesting about this whole situation is how open Cashman has been about the possibility of Wade actually making the starting team, which is uncharacteristic of an organization that’s often hesitant of handing starting spots to players so green.
But in Wade’s case, it’s a trial run. You don’t necessarily worry about service time because there’s the thinking Gregorius returns relatively soon, and you get a chance to test out Wade’s abilities. It’s definitely an intriguing idea.
How would he actually perform? It’s pretty unclear. He’s had an .839 OPS in just 36 at-bats this spring, so that’s pretty meaningless. He was league average offensively at Double-A Trenton last season (a .701 OPS and 101 wRC+), so one would reasonably expect, based on major league equivalencies and projections, that he’s something like an 80 wRC+ player at the big league level. ZiPS says 61 wRC+, but I’m not sure I’m willing to go that low.
Baseball Prospectus, who had him as the 101st best prospect in baseball, is conflicted on Wade. While it’s obvious offense isn’t his forte, they state that “unusually consistent slash lines” combined with a “a likely defensive role” means the floor could be high—something like a 45 future value as a defensive backup—and it also means that if his offense does actually pan out, then he could be an above-average starter.
So that’s what the Yankees will have a chance to evaluate. I have a feeling he’ll be able to stick it defensively—it seems like scouts agree on that—but there’s just no consensus on whether he can actually hit at the big league level.
Regardless, this is a no-harm-no-foul scenario. If the Yankees do indeed choose to give a starting spot to Wade out of camp, they’ll at least get a ~100 plate appearance sample at the big league level. It could be total noise, but some data is better than no data at all.
And if it doesn’t work out, you still have Castro, Torreyes, and Refsnyder. They’re not stuck in a corner. He also hasn’t touched Triple-A whatsoever, so if all else fails, you plop him there and let him play the season there. Let him work on his hit tool, see where it goes, and he could be ready for a call-up in September.
I’m not totally sold on Wade, as I’m sure many people aren’t. But if the Yankees are going to lose their above-average starting shortstop for over a month’s time, it might not be a bad idea to see if they can pull another one out of their sleeves.