Despite a crowded New York Yankees infield, Tyler Wade appears determined to reestablish himself as a top prospect.
Hey, everyone, remember Tyler Wade?
No, not the neighbors’ nephew who fell out of the tree and broke his arm last summer. I mean the New York Yankees infielder who won the starting second baseman’s job out of Spring Training last year! You know, the lefty hitter with breakneck speed out of the batter’s box.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a year later and Tyler Wade is…fighting for a roster spot. A combination of bad luck and illness saw him demoted to the minors last year and supplanted by Gleyber Torres. The rest, as they say, is history, but more about that later.
And, folks, Wade has started off red hot this spring. He was 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles in Sunday’s tilt against the Tampa Bay Rays and also drove in a run. He is batting .800 through two games and forcing fans and coaches alike to notice him.
The saddest part is because of the plethora of infielders New York now has, Wade can and probably will fall by the wayside. He’d probably have an easier time lobbying for Quidditch to become an official Olympic sport.
Tyler Wade deserves just as much consideration as his competition because if the Yankees miss out on what he offers, it would be a crying shame.
A lost season
Everything was coming up roses for Tyler Wade this time last year. The second baseman’s job was his to lose and his versatility upped his value. He posted a line of .286/.400/.388 in Spring Training and was named the starting second baseman. Spring Training was the Yellow Brick Road, New York was the Emerald City at its end, and Wade had more heart than the Tin Man.
Well, enter the Wicked Witch of the Flu, and the house fell on Wade instead of her. Wade batted .085 before getting sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in late April. DJ Eberle of The Times Leader reported Wade got sick during the team’s opening series against the Toronto Blue Jays and lost a lot of weight, thus the poor performance:
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in my bed, like, just looking up thinking if I didn’t get sick what would have happened just because I lost so much weight, but I mean, it’s part of it and I think everything happens for a reason,” Wade said. “I came down here with the mindset of going back to the big leagues and I knew that wasn’t going to be easy. It’s a process, man. I’m glad I’m back and I’m ready to get out of here.”
Wade went on to bat .255 with 11 stolen bases in 91 games at Triple-A, and even got called back up to the Yankees for a time in July. He hit .333 that month and also slugged his first big league home run.
But the Wade fans first fell in love with is so much better than that. He had a line of .310/.382/.460 with 26 steals in 2017. His ability to hit the ball to the gaps and all over the field is a breath of fresh air in the era of exit velocities and launch angles. The man can play several different positions. Think of him as a discount Ben Zobrist.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Yankees would be missing if Tyler Wade is put on the back burner this spring.
A crowded infield
Except, the Yankees may not have a choice. The number of infielders competing for positions on the Opening Day roster might as well be the 4 train at rush hour. It’s hard to find room for anyone, let alone Tyler Wade.
Greg Bird and Luke Voit are competing for the starting first baseman’s job. Miguel Andujar has third base locked down now that Manny Machado is off the market. DJ LeMahieu, despite being a Gold Glove second baseman, is going to be used as a super-utility man. Troy Tulowitzki, despite his lengthy injury history, is battling to start at shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery. Torres, meanwhile, is expected to remain at second.
Except, there’s a catch. Torres is a natural shortstop and we know LeMahieu can handle second. Tulowitzki, even if he looks strong in Spring Training, has been injured enough he can’t be trusted as a starter. Moreover, he’s only signed for the league minimum this year and can be released at a low cost.
That said, there’s a solution to the infield logjam staring the Yankees square in the face. First, regardless of how he performs, Tulowitzki has to be released. Consistency will be key if New York wants to keep pace with the defending champion Boston Red Sox, and that won’t happen with a walking disabled list on the team. The only circumstances under which he should stay are if Wade and LeMahieu both struggle the rest of the way, but I digress.
With Torres slotted at shortstop, that pencils LeMahieu in at second base. He can also play first and third, so it’s not like he’s married to one position.
That leaves the utility position open, and Tyler Wade’s time to shine will come there. Not only can he too play three infield positions, but Wade can also play the outfield in an emergency. He played a total of 253.1 innings there at Triple-A last year. By comparison, he only played 82.2 frames at second base, his natural position.
And based on his hot start in Spring Training, Wade knows the deck is stacked against him. He’s gone all-in with a pair of fives when the competition is representing a full house.
That very type of aggressive determination is why management shouldn’t sleep on Tyler Wade this spring. He has worked too hard at 24 years old to just become a trade chip overnight.
This man needs to be in uniform on Opening Day. Otherwise, New York could miss out on something special.