According to manager Aaron Boone, the 23-year-old -- who flew under the radar as a rookie last season -- will be sharing duties at the position with recently signed veteran Neil Walker.
“I’m excited. It’s a dream come true for me,” said Wade, who grew up emulating Derek Jeter. “But now the work just starts.”
Some reading this might be happy for Wade, but it's likely they're also pondering one key question: Who the heck is he?
A player with just 0.081 years of major league service, Wade could find himself in New York’s starting lineup as soon as Opening Day in Toronto, though with left-hander J.A. Happ slated to be on the mound, it's likely the lefty-swinging Wade won't make his first start until the season's second game.
Die-hard Yankees fans entered spring training knowing the names Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar quite well. The prized infield prospects, both represented among Keith Law’s Top 100, held the early hype as the team began replacing second baseman Starlin Castro, traded to the Miami Marlins in the Giancarlo Stanton deal, and third baseman Todd Frazier, who left as a free agent.
Despite a strong spring at the plate for Andujar, veteran Brandon Drury -- acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the start of spring training -- won the third-base job when Andujar was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday. (The Yankees are keeping an eye on Drury, though, who left Friday’s game after being hit by a pitch on his left elbow. X-Rays came back negative, but the swelling is an early concern.)
Five weeks ago, Torres seemed to have the inside track on the second-base job. But an inconsistent spring, coupled with Walker’s signing and Wade’s routine standout performances, resulted in a platoon that doesn't include the team's top prospect.
Torres has batted .179 (5-for-28) with three doubles and nine strikeouts this spring. In 19 games, Wade has batted .286 (12-for-42) with three doubles, a triple and eight walks.
“It looks to me that there’s a little more in [Wade] swinging the bat than maybe I anticipated,” Boone said. “The organization kind of raved about him and his range in the field, and what he brings on the base paths. That’s actually surpassed my expectations too.”
Noted for his speed, Wade’s wheels helped him find a home in the Yankees’ organization as a fourth-round 2013 draft pick. And his baserunning savvy might keep him in the regular rotation all season long.
“He’s got a good clock. He has a knack for, the few times he’s taken the extra bases, where I’ve gone, ‘What’s he doing?’ And then he understands his speed,” Boone said. “He seems to be a very instinctual player.
“There’s been a couple plays defensively where I’m looking for someone else to make the play, and there he is. Just with his athleticism, and the ability to have that range out in the field, he’s done a lot of things really well that get you excited.”
“Watching Gardy, watching Ells in their prime, their aggressiveness shows they’re always looking to take the extra base,” Wade said. “You can always shut it down, but you can’t pick it up. In my mind, I always try to take the extra base, but if I have to, I can shut it down.”
Wade also credits his work with Yankees baserunning instructor and first base coach Reggie Willits. Before joining the big league club this year, Willits spent the previous three seasons in the Yankees farm system, honing minor leaguers’ baserunning techniques. His group was successful in 70.3 percent of its collective stolen-base attempts during his tenure -- and Wade was one of Willits’ attentive pupils.
“He’s turned me into a baserunner, if that kind of makes sense,” Wade said. “I know when to go and when not to go, and kind of switching my mind if I’m trying to steal a base, and locking in on the ball to see if I can take an extra base.”
Gardner believes Wade has caught the coaching staff’s attention primarily because he has had more chances this spring.
“We’re getting to see him play more,” Gardner said. “There’s more opportunities for him to get on the field and get at-bats. He’s been swinging the bat well, so he’s been getting on base -- and opportunities to run.
“He’s done a good job of getting on base and done a good job of being aggressive, and I know the more pressure we can put on the defense, no matter what way we do it, the tougher it makes their job to navigate our lineup.”
Wade’s introduction to all things Yankees actually came about a decade ago, when the Californian trekked with one of his travel teams to Cooperstown, New York, for a tournament. As part of their trip, Wade and his teammates made it to the Bronx, where they visited the old Yankee Stadium, and Wade saw Jeter play live for the first time.
“I saw Derek do the jump-throw, and ever since then, me and my buddy, we’d always play whiffle ball and I’d always imitate Derek,” Wade said.
So what does Wade want you to know about him?
“That I’m always having a fun time. I’m that way on the field, but I’m also an extreme competitor,” Wade said, again emulating the Captain. “I’m a perfectionist, but I like to have a good time, and you’ll always see a smile on my face.”