LaMonte Wade always has a plan.
Now one step from the big leagues, Wade continues to demonstrate an advanced approach at the plate that’s helped him consistently reach base at a .400 clip. Through play Wednesday, Wade is slashing .259/.399/.420 for Triple-A Rochester, after hitting .298/.393/.444 in 46 games at Double-A Chattanooga earlier this year.
Those slash lines mirror what he’s done throughout his minor league career, and before that, at the University of Maryland, where he starred for three years before the Twins drafted him in the ninth round of the 2015 draft. Professionally, he has a career OBP of .401. In his final year with the Terrapins, he hit .335/.453/.468.
“I like to work the count,” said Wade earlier this month. “If the first pitch is there I’ll swing at it, but most of the time I don’t really like to swing at it. I like to go deep in the count, get aggressive late in the count. That’s the approach I take.”
Wade credits the coaching staff at Maryland with molding his offensive approach. Maryland’s program really emphasized on base percentage, and Wade said earlier this year that the only way to earn consistent at bats was to get on base at a high rate. That philosophy worked well for the Terrapins during Wade’s tenure; they made two Super Regionals in Wade’s three seasons in College Park.
“I started working on it in college, being aggressive but under control,” he said. “Coach [John] Szefc and coach [Rob} Vaughn really preached working the count, having good at-bats, tough at-bats. Not giving away outs. So I really take pride in my at-bats and try not to give anything away.”
Wade wasn’t a highly-touted prospect coming out of college, but has worked his way up prospect rankings each season, and is now is solidly a top-15 prospect in the organization. The walk rate and consistency at the plate are the main reasons for that, but he adds value in his ability to play all three outfield spots. Wade played center field in college, and has seen significant action at all three positions this season.
“All three are good,” Wade said about where he likes to play in the field. “Play a lot in right and left, but I got drafted as a center fielder, so I can play center if they need me to. I can play all three.”
Wade probably isn’t an everyday center fielder, but his defensive versatility makes him a prime candidate to be a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. It’s easy to envision him filling the role Robbie Grossman’s played this season, as a bench bat that makes 2-3 starts a week in the outfield. Unlike Grossman, Wade has the ability to be a defensive replacement late in the game when Minnesota starts an offense-first player in the corner outfield.
The principal critique of Wade’s game coming into this year was a lack of power. He’d never reached double-figures in home runs in a season, and slugged a modest .408 last year in Chattanooga. In his age-24 season, he’s seen a significant uptick in home runs this year. With nearly half the season still to play, he already has ten long balls. He believes a small change in his mechanics has led to the power surge.
“Last year I had my hands up top, really high,” he said. “Now I have them low. I think I’m able to get more lift on balls and be able to handle inside pitches better and drive the ball to right. I think that’s probably the biggest reason why the power is up a little bit.”
By September, Wade could be displaying his newfound power, and that .400 OBP, at Target Field.