This is the second part in a 3-part series that will take a bit of a closer look at the three players obtained by the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay trades. In part I, we took a look at righty pitching sensation Kyle Drabek.
As you will remember, Brett Wallace (I keep wanting to call him David Wallace after the Dunder Mifflin CFO) wasn't actually traded for Roy Halladay. Rather, the Blue Jays received outfield prospect Michael Taylor in that trade, but had already reached a deal with the Oakland Athletics to flip Taylor for Wallace. What made that trade possible was that neither Taylor nor Wallace, who came over from St. Louis in the Matt Holliday trade, had been drafted by their respective teams and so neither GM had a real vested interest in their player - it's rare to see a GM trade one of his draftee top prospects for another untested propsect before either has ever seen the majors.
Unlike Taylor, who was a 5th round pick, Wallace came with a draft pedigree - he was drafted in the 1st round by the Cardinals in the 2008 amateur player draft out of Arizona State University. That wasn't the first time he was drafted, either - the Jays themselves took Wallace in the 42nd round of the 2005 draft, but the Sonoma, California native chose to become a Sun Devil instead. He met fellow Californian and new organizational teammate Aaron Hill at the all-star break last season when Hill started for the AL and Wallace played in the Futures Game.
In college, Wallace quickly established himself as one of the NCAA's best hitters - he won two triple crowns and was the Pac-10's player of the year twice. Like most college draftees, Wallace was assigned to short-season A ball, but played his way out of A entirely when he was moved to AA for the end of the season. Wallace started 2009 in double A and then went up to AAA, where he especially turned it on after his trade to Oakland's system, hitting .302/.365/.505 in just over 200 plate appearances. Folks that thought Taylor's numbers in the minors to be more impressive than Wallace's just weren't considering that Wallace was younger, played at a higher level, and put up those numbers in his first full season of professional ball (as opposed to Taylor's second full season), which is extremely impressive. Make no mistake, this kid can hit.
His defense, on the other hand, is another thing. While Wallace is a third-base prospect, and has earned praise for his good hands and arm, there has been significant doubt that Wallace can stay at the hot corner. It has been said he is a "good athlete stuck in a bad body" and most baseball people just don't think he has the range or quickness to stick at third. The Jays have already announced that they plan to use him at first base, even though no one is blocking him at third base in the minors and the Jays have Brian Dopirak, who played much of 2009 at AAA, and David Cooper, who played at AA, at first base (though Cooper's star has faded, it's too early to give up on him).
At the plate, Wallace, a left-handed hitter, is described as a "pure" hitter with a solid approach at the plate, reluctant to expand the strike zone on the pitcher's terms. As scouts have noted, Wallace has a very strong lower body he uses to generate power and is very good at staying on his back leg to generate power and lay off bad pitches. Hitters get in trouble when they get onto their front side too early, as we saw all too often with Alex Rios last season. With Wallace's lower body strength and ability to stay on his back side, I think substantial power will come, and his approach bodes well for him to consistently reach base as well. Although Wallace didn't display that patience in AAA last season, it is understandable as he was taking his first taste of AAA in his first full big league season. I'd expect walk rates over 10% this season in AAA.
As a hitter, Wallace has been described as almost ready for the big leagues. It will take some time for him to learn first base, I'm guessing, so that will keep him in the minors for a bit, but with Lyle Overbay perhaps on his way out, Wallace could be in the big leagues in 2009. He says he wasts to make it as hard as possible for the Jays to send him to AAA. It's hard not to be excited about the offensive upside someone like Wallace brings - particularly when combined with fellow young lefty mashers Travis Snider and Adam Lind. We can be patient with Wallace, but I'm not sure we will have to be patient for very long.
Please share your hopes for Wallace and your thoughts on the Taylor-for-Wallace trade in the comments.