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LaMonte Wade Jr. was a difference maker

LaMonte Wade Jr. Was hardly a household name to come this season, just another roster hopeful buried on the Giants’ depth cards. But like several other Giants pickups in recent years – players coming out of bad seasons elsewhere, or those who never had luck in their previous organizations – he has become a key contributor this season. Although he had barely played in the majors until the end of May, he is tied for fourth on the team in homers and has shown a penchant for collecting late inning hits.

Wade’s most recent big hit came on Tuesday night. Faced with the possibility of ending up tied with the Dodgers atop the National League West, the Giants recovered their way after a 4-1 deficit against the Padres before Wade gave the ninth inning the go-ahead with a simple bloop off the ex-giant Marc Melancon:

It was the seventh time since June that a Wade hit has put the Giants in the lead in the eighth inning or later, which is tied with five other players for the major league lead. All, namely Michel Conforto, Aaron Judge, Austin Prairies, Jorge Polanco, and Kyle seager – has at least 96 more home plate appearances than him, and all of those hits helped the Giants win these games. Here is the supercup:

Note that two of those hits – in the 10th inning on May 28 and the ninth inning on July 22 – came at the expense of the Dodgers. Kenley jansen. Without these, the Dodgers could hold onto a one-game lead over the Giants (not to mention a 10-9 advantage in the series of seasons) with nine games to go instead of the other way around. Wade made the difference in the NL West race.

Wade hits .351 / .439 / .544 in 67 AP in September, and that’s not the craziest of his deviations (we’ll get to that later). The 27-year-old left-handed outfielder is currently hitting .269 / .344 / 0.518 (131 wRC +) with 18 homers in 349 AP total. It represents another testament to the roster-building sense of President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, as a player who pulled weeds from another organization and gave his first extended blow to playing time. offseason swing change that turned him into a legitimate threat to power, and you’ve got a Bay Area analogue to people like Justin turner, Chris taylor, and Max Muncy, guys who went from roster wrecks to central contributors for the Dodgers, with whom Zaidi spent four years (November 2014 to November 18) as general manager before taking on the Giants job.

A ninth-round pick by the University of Maryland Twins in 2015, Wade displayed a batting eye in the minors, consistently posting high percentages on base – 0.428 in Rookie Ball, 0.393 in A-ball , .386 to High-A, .394 to Double-A, .371 to Triple-A – and good contact rates. Yet despite its rugged construction (6ft 1in, 189lbs in minors, 205 now), it didn’t generate consistent power, peaking at 11 circuits in 495 PA split between Double- and Triple-A in 2018. Still, the combination of his punching tool, plate discipline and above average defense suggested a future role as the bigger half of an outside corner squad. Carson Cistulli included him on a Fringe Five list in 2018, writing that Wade “probably should have appeared in every edition of this column” since it was written, while noting that he walked more often than he crossed out. As a 40 Future Value prospect, he placed 16th on the twin list in 2019 and 27th in 2020.

Wade has seen a handful of playing time with the Twins over those two seasons. In 2019, he only played two games in late June and early July before dislocating his right thumb, and only returned to the majors in September, while last season he shuttled between the alternative site and the big club. Even with its chances often linked to Byron buxtonThe endless litany of injuries, Wade was essentially buried in the depth table under his left-handed swinger colleague Jake cave. He hit 0.211 / 0.336 / 0.347 (90 wRC +) in 113 AP over those two seasons, starting 26 times and coming off the bench 15 more times. He walked 13.3% of the time while striking out just 15.9% on strikes, but only managed two of 77 batted balls (2.6%).

On February 4, the Twins traded Wade to the Giants for a 26-year-old right-hander Shaun Anderson, a move so minor that it was not covered by FanGraphs. He didn’t make the Giants after spring training, but was called up on April 11, when Jaylin davis injured his knee – only to suffer from a strained oblique after playing just three games. Returning a month later, he only played two more games before being picked when Alex Dickerson was dropped from the injured list, but was recalled on May 27 when Darin Ruf hit the IL. With Ruf and Brandon belt at the same time, Wade was first curled up with Wilmer Flores on first base, and opened my eyes by completing three homers in a six-start span from May 31 to June 6. He’s played regularly in a multi-position squad since, making 33 starts in right field, 23 in first base, 16 in left field, and two in center.

Considering the timing of the trade, the Twins didn’t see the winter work Wade did to add some pop to his swing. Reuniting with Maryland assistant coach Matt Swope, he realized his swing plane was too flat. Swope, who Recount MLB.com’s Maria Guardado in August, “I felt what the Twins wanted LaMonte to do was get him out of the track and field he naturally has,” helped Wade abandon his squatting position in favor of a more upright position. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

“I think his past swings he was more stuck on his back,” Swope said. “The fact that he was stuck on his back made him spin a lot and spin too much. It was causing all kinds of trouble – bullets on the ground and flares the other way around. We just tried to make him a bit stronger in the base and try to get better forward movement so he could start attacking balls more up front, per se. What we saw with this was his athleticism, posture, and swing pattern automatically started to clean up. “

“We had a pretty clear understanding of his judgment in the strike zone and his style at the plate,” manager Gabe Kapler told MLB.com. “Fairly good plate discipline. I think what we didn’t know was that the power was going to manifest like it did.

Indeed, using Statcast numbers, Wade only chased 22.4% of throws outside the zone, which puts him in the 83rd percentile, but his power has shown itself, as he consistently hits the bullet with force. Here’s a comparison of his Statcast numbers from his brief stay in Minnesota compared to this year:

LaMonte Wade Jr. batting profile

SeasonGB / FBGB%To pull%VETHEBarrel%HH%MEANxBASLGxSLGwOBAxwOBA
2019-201.0741.6%37.7%87.313.02.6%36.4%.211.235.347.366.306.326
20210.7432.0%48.7%90.419.210.8%43.1%.269.263.518.486.365.356

Wade raises the ball more than in his time with the Twins and hits it regularly. Its hard hit rate puts it in the 65th percentile, its average exit speed in the 71st percentile, its barrel rate in the 72nd percentile, its xSLG in the 82nd percentile – and it is beating expectations in this department. It helps that Kapler limited Wade’s exposure to lefties to just four starts and 40 PA; he’s 4-for-35 with two walks, two doubles and 13 strikeouts against lefties.

Wade’s bat power is such that his 5.2% home run rate (home runs by appearance at home plate) ranks second over the Giants behind Belt (7.1% while setting a career high with 26 home runs) and 20th among NL hitters with at least 300 PA. Not too bad for a player who came in last year with a raw power of 45 and a playing power of 30.

As mentioned earlier, Zaidi and the Giants have had a lot of success in recent years with pickups like Wade. Mike Yastrzemski was a rookie at 28 and an MVP candidate at 29. Donovan Solano had barely touched a shot in his 20s, but was fifth in batting average last year at 32. Ruf has scored a 143 wRC + in two seasons since returning from a three-year stint in the KBO. Launcher side, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Dominique leone have each prospered after working their way through miserable seasons. For the most part, anyone could have had these players, but the Giants have them. As much as the core of players with ties to the team’s past glories – Belt, Buster posey, Brandon crawford – these guys helped send San Francisco to the playoffs.

As if Wade hadn’t already created an outsized footprint, he was particularly attached to the Giants, because athleticismAndrew Baggarly and Grant Brisbee have both noted recently. Using the numbers from FanGraphs, Wade is seventh in the majors in WPA at 3.62, and now leads our clutch stat, which “measures to what extent a player does better or worse in high leverage situations than he would have done in an environment without context”.

Wade’s partings, no matter how small, are just plain silly, the stuff of cartoon superheroes. He hit .375 / .413 / .696 in 124 PA with men on bases (but only .208 / .307 / .416 with empty bases), .379 / .408 / .652 in 71 PA with runners in scoring position, .356 / .442 / .511 in 52 PA in close and late situations, .412 / .426 / 0.667 in 56 PA in high leverage situations and .423 / .483 /. 923 in 29 PA with two outs and runners in scoring position.

This stuff is not sustainable, but it has happened, and it has helped the Giants achieve some of the victories that have pushed them to the best majors record. If they can fend off the Dodgers – and our playoff odds give them a 58.5% chance of doing so – they’ll not only avoid the Wild Card game, but also retain home ground advantage as long as they’re in the playoffs. playoffs. Without Wade’s timely work, they might not be in this position.