Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thursday Throwback - Terrell Wade

(This column used to be called Random Ex-Brave.)

You have to love the Braves' scouting team in the late 80's and early 90's. They owned the draft and added major league talent every year - talent that would help the Braves begin their streak of division titles in 1991. They added players like Andruw Jones and Javy Lopez on the international market, helping to add dynamic offensive threats to the franchise.

Stephen Dunn | Getty
And the Braves were even able to add undrafted free agents to the picture and occasionally, those players defied the odds to make it to the majors. Today's Thursday Throwback, Terrell Wade, wasn't drafted in 1991. Just 18 years-old, he headed to a tryout camp after graduating from Rembert High School in South Carolina. Lean, but with velocity and movement, Wade impressed the scouts enough to get signed and began his career in the Gulf Coast League in 1991. He struggled badly and another year in rookie ball saw similar results.

In 1993, the story changed for Wade. He opened the season for the Macon Braves and, like a light switch was flipped on, began to throw strikes. He had struck out plenty in his first two seasons, but the inability to spot his pitches led to walks and homers. Like upgrading your character in a game, Wade achieved control in 1993, lowering his walk rate from about 7 per nine innings to 4 per nine with the Macon Braves in 14 starts. As a result, homers declined and strikeouts boomed. He would get a handful of starts in Durham before ending the season with 8 starts in Greenville, including his only professional shutout. Wade was a Top 30 prospect after the season and why not? He had struck out 208 batters in 1993. You just don't see 200-K years in the minors all that often.

Not so bad for a guy nobody thought of drafting. Wade's follow-up wasn't quite as solid. In 1994, he struck out 76 fewer batters in nearly 30 fewer innings, but his walks again crept higher. It didn't stop him from appearing in 4 games with Richmond before the end of the season. Wade would spend most of 1995 in the minors as well and, once again, struggled to regain the promise of '93. His strikeouts fell under the at least 1-an-inning banner and his ERA was in the mid-4's. He still appeared in three games with the Atlanta Braves in September, though.

1996 would turn into Wade's big year. After making the Braves that spring, Wade filled both the LOOGY and long-relief role for the Braves and even was the a fifth starter during August. At the time of the last development, he had a 1.04 ERA in 29 games with 39 K's. The move to starting pushed his ERA up, but he was flipped back to the bullpen for the stretch run in September. He was rarely used in the playoffs, logging brief appearances in two blowouts and walking the only player he faced in Game 4.

Wade struggled in 1997, ultimately earned a demotion in June and would finish his last year with the Atlanta Braves with an 1.81 WHIP in 42 innings (mostly as a starter). After the season, the expansion Devil Rays would draft Wade. He would start two games for the first-year team that September, beating the Red Sox 8-4 and losing to the Yankees 3-1. That would be his final major league game.

1999 was a terrible year with Wade as he surrendered 104 earned runs, 21 homers, and 80 walks in 98.2 innings with the Durham Bulls of the International League. Tampa Bay naturally cut bait and Wade would spend a year in the Reds organization, though mostly out of an AA bullpen. After spending two years out of the game, Wade would appear for the independent Macon Peaches with former teammate Mike Cather. It was a return to the place he had became a top prospect back in 1993. Wade would go on to pitch for two Atlantic League teams in 2004 and started three ugly games for Nashua in 2006, but never recaptured his former glory.

With his career over, we are left to ask...why didn't he use his first name? Terrell is his middle name, but Hiawatha is his legal first name. Seriously, Hiawatha Wade is so much cooler.

Other Thursday Throwbacks...
Tommy Gregg (1989-1992, 1997)
Jerome Walton (1996)
Blaine Boyer (2005-09)

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