Three reasons for SF Giants fans to be excited about LaMonte Wade Jr.
2. Plate Discipline
Putting top-end pitching in play consistently comes with a cost. To avoid punchouts, hitters tend to be more aggressive early in counts or target borderline pitches at the corners. Naturally, less likely to work long plate appearances, these players tend to have sub-optimal walk-rates. Wade, though, subverts that expectation.
Last season, league-average MLB hitters earned free passes on just under 9.2% of their trips to the plate. Over his career, at every level, he has far exceeded that number. Even in his struggles against big-league pitching, Wade maintained a walk-rate nearly on par with his numbers in college and the minors.
Avoiding strikeouts gives him a greater chance to rack up base hits, but consistently earning walks ensures he reaches base and pushes the opposing pitcher’s pitch counts in the wrong direction. As with strikeout rates, Duggar’s 5.8% career MLB walk-rate is less than half of Wade’s.
Yet, Wade’s well-above-average ability to put the ball in play and earn free passes stands out against more than just peripheral players like Duggar. Wade’s career walk-rate would have ranked third on the Giants among players with at least 60 plate appearances in 2020, tied with star outfielder Mike Yastrzemski. His strikeout rate would have been the best on the team.
It’s hard to contextualize just how exceptional Wade’s numbers in these two categories are. 278 big-league hitters had at least 113 plate appearances in the 2020 season. Of those players, only five posted a walk and strikeout rate better than Wade’s career marks: Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rendon, Yandy Díaz, and Alex Bregman.
That’s a list of four stars and an above-average starter. Obviously, Wade has an uphill battle to becoming a productive player. This elite combination does not ensure MLB success, but it sure sets him apart from most of his peers. If you are making a case for Wade to follow Yastrzemski on a late-20s path to stardom, it starts there.