2016 Statistics: 133 G, 583 PA, .259/.353/.349, 5 HR, 27 SB, 11.3 BB%, 17.7% K%
2017 Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
Over the past year or so, and likely for the next year or so, you’re probably going to hear the words ‘under-the-radar,’ ‘sleeper,’ and ‘breakout’ associated with Tyler Wade. But, I’m here to tell you he’s none of these things. This isn’t a knock on Wade, either, as you’ll see in a moment. The 21-year old is a very solid prospect by all accounts, and Wade carries an exciting profile that Yankees fans should be thrilled to have in the farm system. That said, calling him a breakout prospect would simply be wrong.
Instead, it makes more sense to associate Wade with a less catchy, but more accurate phrase: underrated, with unspectacular minor league numbers that won’t land him on top prospect lists, but a set of tools that should allow him to be a productive big league starter. That just about covers what you need to know about Wade, but let’s dive into some of the details on the 2013 fourth round pick.
Wade had a true breakout season in 2014, as a 19-year-old in his first taste of full season ball. The lefty hit .272/.350/.349 with a home run and 22 stolen bases over 129 games, launching himself into ‘actual prospect’ status for the Yankees. He continued his excellent play in 2015 at High-A—despite being young for the level, Wade easily handled the opposition to the tune of a .280/.349/.353 line and 31 stolen bases. He was given a cup of coffee at Double-A, which is where the success finally stopped. Normally a player with very good plate discipline, Wade walked just twice in 117 plate appearances (1.7% walk rate) while hitting .204.
Luckily, Wade bounced back this season in a big way, walking 11.3% of the time while hitting .259/.353/.349 with five home runs and 27 stolen bases. He also drove in 27 runs while scoring 90 times, which is interesting, if not completely meaningless. Although the final slash line was nothing eye-popping—which is why you probably won’t see Wade ranked on top-100 prospect lists anytime soon—context is important. Wade is just 21, more than three years younger than the average Double-A player, and is a speedy lefty hitting shortstop. He doesn’t need to be a force in the middle of a lineup to be a big league starter.
I may have lied about one thing, though…Wade isn’t necessarily a shortstop. While many scouts agree that he has the tools and makeup to play solid defense at the six-spot at the highest level, you may have noticed that the Yankees’ system isn’t exactly lacking in shortstop prospects. As Wade has shot through the system, he has passed other shortstops, including Abiatal Avelino and Jorge Mateo, and has spent time at second base in order to accommodate everyone. With the addition of Gleyber Torres, versatility will be key for Wade to make it through the system.
Despite spending the majority of his time last year at shortstop (91 games there compared to 38 at second base), Wade has played centerfield exclusively during his time in the Arizona Fall League. This isn’t to say that he’s now an outfielder, but instead, he might just have another notch in his belt with the ability to play the outfield, along with second base and shortstop. In a best case scenario, this could speed Wade’s promotion to the big leagues, since the team lacks a (young) true centerfielder. He could also serve in a valuable role as a super utility player.
Of course, I should mention that Tyler Wade has a lower batting average and slugging percentage than Tim Tebow in the AFL. But, he reportedly looks spent after a full season in the minor leagues and performances in the AFL have little weight unless you really want them to (see: Gary Sanchez in 2015, Greg Bird in 2014).
It’s prudent to ignore the offensive numbers on offense, though, and just focus on the whole package we’re now seeing with Wade. He’s a versatile player who could play three positions up the middle while contributing league average offense (a solid average and on base percentage, albeit with little power) and excellent baserunning skills. Toss in makeup that Yankees’ officials continually rave about and a solid track record of success, and you’re looking at an average big league starter, with a high floor as an extremely useful utility man. The numbers might not stand out, but Wade could soon emerge as a sneakily productive big league player.