Three reasons for SF Giants fans to be excited about LaMonte Wade Jr.
1. Contact Skills
Zaidi’s penchant for players who put the ball in play has been a consistent trend. Yet, as more hitters have reengineered their swings to elevate the ball, hitters project to strike out more than 150 times over 500 plate appearances far more frequently than in years past. Wade, however, has bucked the trend.
Throughout his career, from college to the majors, Wade has limited strikeouts. The average MLB hitter in 2020 struck out in more than 23.4% of their plate appearances. Wade has never approached that rate of punchouts.
While his .684 OPS with the Twins left plenty of room for improvement, Wade has already shown elite ability to put the ball in play against MLB pitching. Most would expect that to lead to a better batting average, but a .240 batting average on balls in play has limited his productivity. A continued propensity for contact combined with better luck could be an easy recipe for him to take another step forward.
Even if Wade has already reached his ceiling as a player, a versatile defensive outfielder that consistently puts the ball in play has value. While Steven Duggar, who will likely compete with Wade for a roster spot in Spring Training, is clearly a superior defender, his 28.4% career strikeout rate makes it harder to envision him finding a consistent role.