In 2021, LaMonte Wade Jr. broke out in a big way to help the SF Giants to their best regular season in franchise history. With an .808 OPS and 18 home runs in 109 games, Wade was an important part of the offense against right-handed pitchers. He even earned the nickname "Late-Night Lamonte" for his many clutch hits in the late innings of ballgames.
Unfortunately, like many of his teammates, Wade's 2022 was a campaign littered with injury and struggles. The 28-year-old outfielder scuffled to a .207 batting average and 8 home runs in 217 at-bats, including a .225/.329/.401 slash line against righties after pulverizing them for an .860 OPS in 2021.
Despite his off year, the Giants apparently saw enough in Wade to have confidence that he'll turn things around: in a media session Wednesday, the team's president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, said Wade would be offered a contract for 2023.
Knee injury kept Wade from an April debut
Wade missed a lot of time in the first half of the 2022 season. He didn't make his season debut until May 6, in the Giants' 26th game, because of lingering knee inflammation from Spring Training, and after two weeks he went back on the Injured List when the issue popped up again. He returned for good in late-June but had nagging injuries that kept him from reaching his 2021 heights; Wade entered the last day of the regular season with an average under the Mendoza Line but gained nine points of average with a 3-for-5 finale.
According to MLB's Statcast analysis website, Baseball Savant, it appears that the new shift rules will indeed help Wade. Previously, there were few restrictions as to where the defense could position their fielders. Beginning in 2023, there must be two defenders with their cleats on the dirt on each side of second base for every pitch. Gone are the days of just one player between second and third with the shortstop playing a normal second base and the second baseman 20-30 feet into the outfield grass to cut off hot shots that used to zip through the right side. Left-handed power hitters are expected to gain from the new arrangement, as more hard-hit balls will go over or past the second-sacker.
Savant's numbers show that Wade was shifted in over 66% of his 2022 plate appearances. His wOBA (weighted on-base average) for the season was .298 after a .343 in 2021. If he had not been shifted at all, the number would have been quite a bit higher at .347.
If Wade can stay healthy all season, he has a chance to return to his previous success and be a large part of the replacement for free agent outfielder Joc Pederson. Its not a guarantee, however, and if he doesn't perform he'll likely be on the way out.