The same question is asked before every Twins season: Which prospects will make their major league debut?
The answers focus on the top prospects who are at Class AAA and AA, and players like LaMonte Wade Jr., get overlooked.
Wade reached the upper levels of the Twins farm system in 2018 and 2019 but has never been considered a top prospect. A steady outfielder with good plate discipline and some hitting potential, Wade spent the season at Class AAA Rochester while many who followed the Twins wondered if Alex Kirilloff could hit his way into the majors.
But it was Wade who got the call in early July, unfortunately dislocating his right thumb after two plate appearances when he lost a battle with the Target Field fence while chasing a fly ball. He remained on the injured list through August, going on a rehab assignment at Rochester, but as Twins outfielders began to drop out of the lineup with injuries, Wade returned on Sept. 1.
When called upon, Wade has not looked overwhelmed and has earned praise from manager Rocco Baldelli.
“LaMonte’s gone out there and had some really good at-bats for us,” Baldelli said. “He’s been on base continually, and he’s played anywhere we’ve put him in the outfield, and I think he’s done a really nice job.”
To be accurate, Wade has not looked overwhelmed — until he’s tried to put the bat on the ball. It took him six games before he got his first major league hit, an RBI infield single off Cleveland’s Nick Wittgren on Sept. 8. But he made himself useful up to that point, drawing six walks over his first six games and eight walks during his first 25 plate appearances. That included a pinch-hit walk leading off the eighth inning at Detroit on Sept. 2, with the Twins trailing by a run; Wade’s walk helped spark a winning two-run rally.
Then on Tuesday, when the Twins came back 97 times vs. the White Sox while winning 9-8 in 12 innings, Wade entered the game in the 11th as a pinch runner and made a heads-up play, advancing from second to third on a wild pitch that was just a few feet away from home plate. He scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly to keep the Twins alive.
“I was confident,” Wade said. “I was confident I would make it.”
It was a call that belied his big-league experience.
“He was only out there for a little bit,” Baldelli said. “He’s been extremely engaged and attentive to everything going on since he has been here.”
Wade, a ninth-round pick in 2015 out of Maryland, has hit .276 with just 40 homers in 480 minor league games, but he has walked more than he has struck out, posting a .389 on-base percentage. Some with the club feel he has the potential to hit for some power — he hit his first home run Sunday at Cleveland, then homered and tripled Saturday vs. Kansas City — as well as for a decent average. But a guy who can play all three outfield positions and take good at-bats is going to get a shot eventually, and Wade is getting his in the middle of a division title drive, soaking up knowledge along the way.
“It’s a lot different,” Wade said. “These guys have been around for a while. We’ve got young guys and older guys. Like I said, these guys are intelligent, we can always pick bits and pieces from any of the guys out here, and you learn a lot just from each other, and the coaching staff, so it’s a group of guys where we just keep grinding and staying focused.”
It’s good to keep in mind that, over the course of a season like the Twins are having, it’s not always about the key players leading the way. It’s about any player contributing along the way. Along those lines, Wade has found a way to stand out.
“He’s a talented young man,” Baldelli said. “He has tremendous at-bats. He’s another guy I would label, he’s a good baseball player. He has good sense and awareness to him.”