Tyler Wade has made his mark with his bat during his tenure with the RailRiders. But does he fit in at second base with the Yankees, or will he be the utility man they’ve been planning on him being as he prepares for his major league debut? Times-Tribune photo by Butch Comegys.
Some games are really interesting, and I thought last night’s 6-5 win for the Yankees over the White Sox was one of those. So, here’s what’s on my mind:
Thought: How will the Yankees use Tyler Wade?
OK, so we all knew pretty early that the Yankees were going to promote the 22-year-old utility man shortly after Starlin Castro went down with a hamstring strain in the third inning in Chicago. YES Network’s Jack Curry reported pretty quickly that was the plan, and the RailRiders took him out of their game in Syracuse. While manager Joe Girardi wouldn’t confirm Wade was coming up after the game, RailRiders general manager Al Pedrique certainly didn’t hide the fact he’d be losing his leadoff man.
The question I have is, will the Yankees simply use him at second base until Castro can come back? Or will they use him slightly differently than everyone is anticipating?
I think pretty much everyone on the outskirts of the situation just kind of assumes he’ll be the second baseman. They look at his work offensively (he’s hitting .313 with a .390 OBP and is on pace for a career-high slugging percentage in his first Triple-A season). They look at the fact that he’s a shortstop by trade. They think this is an easy transition.
The fact, though, is that Wade hasn’t been playing much second lately, for whatever reason. He has started there 12 times for the RailRiders this season, but since June 8, he has started just three games there. And, really, he has only played two days there in that stretch, since two of those games came in the June 20 doubleheader against Syracuse.
This is not to insinuate Wade isn’t good enough to play 2B every day. He probably is. But the Yankees have really been trying hard to develop him into the type of close-to-everyday utility man that really good teams have, and I can see them trying to continue that in the big leagues.
Tonight will probably be a good litmus test of that. The Yankees are going to want to get him in the lineup soon (they do with most of the young prospects they really like who get called up), but they’re facing Jose Quintana, who is a tough lefty. Lefty hitters, like Wade, have just a .658 OPS against Quintana this season.
That said, I don’t think it’s necessarily a guarantee that, if Wade plays tonight, it will be at second base. The Yankees can use Ronald Torreyes or Rob Refsnyder there, against a lefty (which they might do until Castro can come back anyway). They can give Brett Gardner a day off if they’d like, although he just had one Saturday. They can sit Jacoby Ellsbury, who is 0 for 6 against Quintana in his career and looks like he’s still trying to find timing at the plate, understandably. Maybe, they can work in a DH day for Headley. That’s the beauty of Wade, though. He gives them many options other players don’t provide.
The Yankees were doing the right thing with Wade in the minors, building him into the type of player they hope he can someday be in the bigs. He’s not there yet, but he’s close. He has been a big-league performer in Triple-A, for sure. It will just be interesting to see if the Yankees try to extend his development into the big leagues, or if they try to use him as the stopgap.
If it’s me (and, trust me, nobody is pretending I know more than the people writing out the lineup card): I’m playing Torreyes at second and moving Wade around. But, I’m playing Wade.
Thought: How will the RailRiders replace Wade?
Simple answer is, they won’t. And, they can not.
This is the player that team couldn’t lose and still be the same type of team. They’ll be able to put players in the field who can do the job defensively, for sure. But there isn’t another obvious leadoff man who can be as dynamic as Wade was.
I guess they can throw Mason Williams in there. He certainly has experience, and his bat has been coming around after a slow start. Mark Payton fits the profile, but Pedrique sort of has to invent ways to get him in the lineup with Dustin Fowler and Clint Frazier playing every day and, now, with Williams back and Jake Cave hitting well since his promotion. The shame of it is, this might have been the perfect spot to pop Gleyber Torres into, had he not gotten injured.
None of them, it would seem, bring the same combination of extra-base power/speed/batting average that Wade has since the beginning of April. There’s going to be a big adjustment at the top of the lineup, whoever Pedrique decides to ink in there.
The guy who stands to benefit the most with Wade not around, however permanent or temporary it may be: Cito Culver. He’s going to get more consistent run at shortstop (and he might be the best defender in the International League at that position), and it will be interesting to see what he does with more consistent at-bats. He has a .946 OPS in June.
Thought: What could the Yankees get on the open market for Austin Romine?
Kevan Smith. Jeff Mathis. Andrew Knapp. Devin Mesoraco. Yadier Molina. Willson Contreras. Matt Wieters. Sandy Leon. Chris Gimenez. Roberto Perez. Jonathan Lucroy. Buster Posey. Tony Wolters. Martin Maldonado. Yasmani Grandal.
Those were the other players who started at catcher in the big leagues last night, and I’d probably take Romine over half of them.
Point is, there isn’t a breadth of outstanding catching in the big leagues, and Romine has become a pretty effective hitter — especially when he gets some extended time in the lineup. As a pitch caller and someone who can relate well to a pitching staff and control the running game, it’s difficult to imagine there are 30 better catchers in the league.
Not suggesting the Yankees should trade him during the season, because they honestly don’t have a replacement for him. And, he’s extremely valuable right now to them. But Brian Cashman, you might have heard, once traded John Ryan Murphy, a backup catcher who the Yankees liked, and got Aaron Hicks, an outfielder pretty much everybody liked.
The lesson there is that teams are willing to gamble to get the type of catcher that will put a young, developing pitching staff over the top. The Yanks may have gotten somewhat lucky on the Hicks deal, considering they found a player with a lot of tools that a team grew tired of waiting on, from a team that wanted to move on at catcher. But it stands to reason that, this offseason, Cashman might want to listen to some offers for Romine, because his value could be really high, he’s arbitration eligible, and the Yankees’ starting catcher is clearly Gary Sanchez.
They might be able to get a decent prospect for him. Cashman has gotten decent prospects for less.
And besides, some team would be smart to turn their pitching staff over to Romine.
Thought: Who is the ace of the Yankees staff?
If the Yankees had to win today’s game, and every pitcher they had was somehow available, and Joe Girardi had his choice of any of them to start this all-important game, he’s probably still going to give the ball to Masahiro Tanaka.
And that’s a pretty good, safe, smart call.
But I wonder if anyone thinks, even for a second, about Jordan Montgomery in that spot.
Probably not, but the rookie has been pretty good. The Yanks have lost 10 of 13, but he has won two of the three games in which they did get the W. He has won four of his last five starts, and he pitched pretty well in some no-decisions (and losses, frankly) earlier in the season.
The best thing about him: He has progressively gotten better. He has become more economical with his pitches, and his ERA and WHIP have gone down progressively in each month this season. Very impressed with how he gave up that solo homer to Todd Frazier early last night and didn’t get rattled. Just calmly went about his business.
He’s going to be a really outstanding pitcher for the Yankees as his career progresses.
Thought: Yanks did the right thing with Tyler Austin
There were no guarantees he was going to be better than Chris Carter, which is certainly why the Yankees didn’t call him up earlier. But even through three games, it looks like Austin is better than Chris Cater.
This is not because he hit a solo home run last night (Carter, after all, hit some homers). But Austin has given the Yankees more competitive at-bats in big spots than Carter had and, probably safe to say, would have as the weeks progressed.
Austin is just 2 for 11 with a homer, two RBIs and four strikeotus in three games, and those are Carter-like numbers, admittedly over a very short amount of time. But in the fourth inning, with a runner on third and less than two outs last night, Austin got a fastball on the outer half of the plate and did what he should have done: He drove it to right field. Plenty deep enough to get the run home.
I mean, he’s not setting the world on fire: He’s hit the ball hard into outs a few times. On Sunday, he had a chance to advance Chase Headley after his leadoff grounds-rule double in the eighth and pulled the ball a little too much. He has struck out too much, though in line with his Triple-A rate. But there’s a sense that Austin is going to put the ball in play in a big spot, where there was no sense Carter could do that consistently. That probably has earned Austin a look for a month, or until Greg Bird can fight his way back to the bigs.