It’s no secret that the San Francisco Giants have been home to multiple surprise breakout this season, as it has led them to to the best record in the juggernaut NL West and all of baseball. Familiar faces like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have had unexpected re-emerging All-Star seasons. Kevin Gausman has been nothing short of dominant for a majority of the year. And starters Logan Webb and Anthony DeSclafani have had incredible under the radar years that could lead to some Cy Young votes at the end of the year. Most of these guys have been established major leaguers for quite some time, with these being standout seasons for their careers, but the Giants have been able to find some diamonds in the rough, like OF/1B LaMonte Wade Jr.
While Wade’s season isn’t the only outlier on the roster (read here about Darin Ruf’s great return from the KBO), it’s one of the more interesting ones since Wade Jr. didn’t start the season on the Giants’ opening day roster. While he was called up roughly two weeks later, Wade Jr. hit the IL for a month with a left oblique strain. After being activated, he was put through option limbo, being called up and recalled 4 times until June 25, where he got called back up to San Francisco and hasn’t looked back. Since then, Wade has put up a .847 OPS and 123 wRC+ in 151 PA’s.
Originally a 9th round draft pick from the Twins out of the University of Maryland, Wade Jr. was Minnesota’s 13th ranked prospect headed into the 2018 season and was highly praised for his discipline in the minors. However, over his 51 games with the Twins through 2019-20, he struggled to hit big league pitching, slashing .211/.336/.347 with 90 wRC+ over 113 PA’s. Even through his subpar performance in the Majors, the Giants saw potential in him and acquired him via a trade last offseason for RHP Shaun Anderson.
One of the biggest factors for his success this year could be his approach at the plate. Throughout his professional career, Wade Jr. has been known for his plate discipline, as he walked more than he struck out in his career before being traded to San Francisco. This year, Wade Jr. has taken a more aggressive approach at the plate and it has paid off. In his minor league career, he never hit more than 11 homeruns in a calendar year. In 2021, he has hit 16 homeruns in only 71 games. However, this power surge has caused his walk and strikeout rates to hurt, as he’s posted the lowest BB% and highest K% in his professional career (minimum 150 PA’s).
While we’ll have to wait and see how the change in Wade Jr.’s approach will affect him long term, it has done nothing but help the Giants in their quest for an NL West crown. The Giants roster is stacked in every category, but manager Gabe Kapler will likely find a way to get Wade Jr.’s bat into the lineup once October comes around.