Top prospects typically garner most of the attention in spring training, especially those like Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, who are the presumed favorites to land starting roles in the Yankees' infield. However, it's never wise to sleep on a mid-tier prospect that has busted it on the field to reach the big leagues like Tyler Wade managed in 2017.
Wade was provided just 58 at-bats across the three-plus months he spent on the Yankees roster in 2017. As such, Wade is no longer a rookie, but the 23-year-old is vastly inexperienced in terms of reps in the major leagues.
Wade posted a terrible .155/.222/.224 slash line in his 63 plate appearances with the Yankees last season, finding minimal playing time with large swaths of space between appearances. Wade was never a threat to take over for any of the Yankees' regulars while he was up, therefore, the argument can be made that he had no reason to be on the roster for as long as he was. Instead, he should have been playing daily at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre until their season concluded.
It's my view that the Yankees should not make the same decision with Wade in 2018.
If Wade demonstrates in spring training that he, in fact, can make an impact at the big league level, but is not deemed the starter for the Yankees at second base or third base, he should not be rotting on the bench in New York. The Yankees have a utility player in Ronald Torreyes, and quite honestly, that is all Torreyes should ever be on this squad.
This means that Torreyes cannot be first in line to receive everyday reps if one of the regulars in the infield - outside of first base - is on the shelf for an extended period. Rather, Wade should be provided an actual chance for daily reps on the big league roster when one of the regulars hits the disabled list. I believe Wade has a bright future, and right now, he is too young to be relegated to a utility role on the bench.
Since the Yankees infield seems to be set for some time, the club should also be thinking about Wade's value on the market. Each day that Wade sits on the big league bench, his value decreases in the eyes of other clubs where he may be a starting infielder. If Wade is playing daily in Triple-A, he can at least establish that his breakout 2017 season was no fluke, and might entice clubs to take interest in him.
Wade was spectacular in his time at Triple-A last season, hitting .310 with a .382 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage in 386 plate appearances. He stroked 33 extra-base hits and stole 26 bases in 31 attempts -- the fourth straight season he swiped at least 20 bases. Wade is a career .275 hitter in close to 2,300 minor league plate appearances.
Wade produced with the bat while bouncing around the infield (and a handful of appearances in the outfield corners) in an effort to make him more versatile. This versatility should be put to use only as a regular, where he is able to come up to the Yankees to fill any of three roles for a period of time.
I also believe that Wade - assuming strong performance in the spring - should be the player starting if either Andujar or Torres are deemed not ready to make the Opening Day roster. Similarly, if either Andujar or Torres slumps to the point that the Yankees believe one needs to be optioned to the minor leagues, Wade needs to be the replacement.
Regardless of what level Wade receives a bulk of his playing time, he should be doing just that -- playing everyday. He has a chance to be a solid contributor as a major league player at some point in his career, but sticking on the Yankees' bench in 2018 will stall his potential growth. Wade is simply too young, and possesses enough upside to be pigeon-holed into a utility role.