The Andrew Velazquez story has been the ultimate feel-good moment of the New York Yankees’ 2021 season. The Bronx native who played his high school ball at Fordham Prep has gotten a shot to fill in at shortstop for the team he grew up idolizing. Straight out of a Hollywood script, no?
Velazquez seized the moment using timely hitting, excellent fielding, and aggressiveness on the base paths. Since his first Yankees start on Aug. 9, Velazquez has appeared in nearly every game since, starting a majority at shortstop. While he’s done an admirable job filling in for the injured Gleyber Torres, there’s another utility infielder on the Yankees roster with a more impressive resume who seems to have been frozen out.
After multiple seasons of frustrating Yankees fans with what has been frankly abysmal hitting performances, Tyler Wade may have finally turned a corner. On July 30, Wade was hitting a horrific .191 with a .482 OPS. Since getting the start that day, Wade has hit a downright unbelievable .425 with a 1.084 OPS. His season stats now show a much more respectable .278 average and a nearly league average 97 wRC+.
Wade’s surge at the plate has also come with his usual excellent infield defense all while being one of the fastest baserunners on the team.
Wade’s speed allows the Yankees to put pressure on defenses and pitchers. The most recent example of this was on Aug. 26 when Wade stole second as a pinch runner in the ninth inning of a tie game against Oakland. The resulting throw by the catcher sailed into the outfield and allowed Wade to move to third. From there, Aaron Judge blooped in what was eventually the winning run.
So with all that Wade brings to the table why has he seemingly been supplanted by Velazquez? Wade is just as good of a fielder, just as strong of a base runner/stealer, and has easily out-hit Velazquez while they’ve both been on the roster.
With two more openings on the active roster coming on Sept. 1, it seems one of them will be jettisoned once Gleyber Torres makes his return from the injured list. If we’re to base it on recent playing time, one might think Velazquez will stay. But if we base it on versatility and Yankee pedigree, Wade gets the nod.
Until Torres is back, it would be wise to give Wade some consistent playing time, especially if the Yankees ever consider playing Rougned Odor at third base again. While Odor should be commended for giving it his best at a position he has little to no experience playing, it makes no sense to start him at a key position and keep Wade’s effective defense on the bench. It’s not as if Odor’s .212 average and .697 OPS are anything to write home about, either.
If the Yankees make it past the Wild Card game (or find a way to win the AL East), Wade will almost certainly be on the playoff roster. We’d think keeping him confident at the plate and involved in the game on a daily basis would be in both Wade’s and the team’s best interests. Reward Wade for his performance and let him play. Even if it means derailing one of the best feel-good stories of 2021.
He has earned it.