Even members of the Wade and Estrada families would agree the Yankees aren’t as strong up the middle with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada playing where Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu were before going on the injured list.
However, when the Yankees open a two-game series against the Braves in Atlanta on Tuesday evening, Wade and Estrada figure to be at second base and shortstop. Or shortstop and second base.
“That is what we will look to do,’’ Boone said of using Wade and Estrada, but didn’t say who would play where.
Boone did say he could use third baseman Gio Urshela at short for a game or two and in a backup role if needed. The Yankees signed veteran shortstop Jordy Mercer to a minor league contract on Aug. 17 and he is at the alternate site in Scranton, although not on the 40-man roster.
Since Wade has more big-league experience at short than Estrada, and Boone moved Wade from second to short when Torres left last Thursday’s game with left hamstring and quadriceps problems and used Estrada at second, that might be the alignment Boone goes with. Estrada has started twice at second and once at third this year.
“I think Wade is the better shortstop and at second base it is fairly close,’’ an AL scout said of the left-handed hitter who has started five games at second and one at short this year. He has appeared in 15 games at second and five at short. “Estrada is the better hitter.’’
Either way it is a sizeable drop off even with Torres hitting .231 (18-for-78) and leading the club in errors with six. LeMahieu is the Yankees’ most complete player. He is hitting .411 (30-for-73) with a .990 OPS in 19 games and won three Gold Gloves at second base with Colorado.
Getting Aaron Judge back from the IL Tuesday night will take some of the sting out of losing LeMahieu to a sprained left thumb that could keep him out another 10 days or so.
Wade’s greatest value to the Yankees is the ability to play second, short, third, left field and steal a base as a pinch runner. Now, he will be counted on to make all the plays and do the little things to help the Yankees win.
“Drag bunt, take the extra base, score from first on a double,’’ the scout said of the speedy Wade, who is career .198 hitter in parts of four big-league seasons and has yet to find regular work with the Yankees. He is batting .200 (5-for-25) this year in 20 games. “He doesn’t need to think he is replacing LeMahieu or Torres. If he plays good he will contribute.’’
While Wade, 25, has better range than Torres, scouts have noticed his arm angle is a little low to make the play in the hole at short.
As for the 24-year-old Estrada, there is some juice in the bat but a flaw that pitchers can exploit the more they see the right-handed hitter who was limited to 18 minor league games in 2018 due to getting shot in the hip prior to spring training. He appeared in 35 big-league games last year.
“He has always had a big leg kick of a power hitter and that is not who he needs to be if he wants to be a long-term big leaguer,’’ the scout said of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Estrada, who is hitting .253 (4-for-15) in eight games this season. “Pitchers see that and they will want to slow him down. Speeding him up with fastballs up in the zone and slow him down with changeups.’’
Of the two, a third scout sees a higher ceiling for Estrada because of the bat.
“He has some impact to his game and a chance to be an everyday player,’’ and NL scout said.
That could become a reality for Estrada with the Yankees if LeMahieu leaves via free agency. For now, however, Wade and Estrada are being asked to not make mistakes in the field or attempt to do more than they are capable of at the plate.
They aren’t Torres and LeMahieu but they will be in the middle of the infield and expected to help.
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