SF Giants outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. was such a special part of the 2021 season with countless clutch hits. However, he has not been able to repeat that performance this season as he has struggled badly at the plate.
What is going on with SF Giants outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr?
In fairness, Wade Jr. is not the only Giants player to regress substantially in 2022, but he is struggling to fill the role that the Giants envisioned. When the Giants traded for him prior to the 2021 season, it was not a move that received a lot of attention.
However, the left-handed bat became a thrilling part of last season. In 381 plate appearances, Wade Jr. slashed .253/.326/.482 (116 OPS+) with 18 home runs, 56 RBI, and 52 runs. This included an 8.7 percent walk rate against a 23.4 percent strikeout rate.
He had a knack for the clutch hit as he recorded 13 hits with 12 RBI in 23 at-bats in the ninth inning. Plus, he gave the Giants platoon leverage as he posted an .860 OPS in 299 plate appearances against right-handed pitching.
At the start of this season, the outfielder was expected to be a power-hitting option against right-handed pitching. He began the season on the injured list after experiencing knee inflammation that resulted in two, extended trips to the injured list. Could this ailment still be affecting his play?
That could be the case. Wade Jr. has tallied a .172/.291/.322 line (73 OPS+) with three home runs, 14 RBI, and eight runs in 103 plate appearances. His 12.6 percent walk rate is an encouraging sign and the 20.4 percent strikeout rate is not abnormally high.
However, his .229 ISO from last season has regressed to a .149 ISO in 2022. To put it differently, he is not driving the ball as well as he was and plenty of indicators confirm that. For starters, he has an average exit velocity of 87.6 MPH, which is a 2.5-MPH drop from last season. His launch angle (18.6 degrees) and barrel rate (10.4 percent) still remain strong.
That said, he is not pulling the ball with as much frequency. He has pulled the baseball in 37.3 percent of batted ball events this season compared to 46.9 percent of batted ball events last season.
This could be a product of how he is performing against fastballs. Wade Jr. has struggled to the tune of a .189 batting average against velocity, so given that he is not pulling the ball as much could be related to the fact that he is not getting around on fastballs.
Hopefully, the 28-year-old outfielder can turn his season around soon. He does not have any minor league options remaining, so it puts the Giants in a tough position. He offered too much promise to give up on him so quickly but they need to see his bat be more productive. Regardless, it is still relatively early in Wade Jr.'s season to draw any conclusions, but it is something to monitor.