This is the sixth part of a series of posts on the keys to the Toronto Blue Jays 2010 season. Part I, where we introduced and laid out all the keys, is here. Part II, in which we discussed the importance of Kyle Drabek's continued emergence as a future ace, is here. Part III, which focused on growth of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, is here. Part IV centered on the continued contributions from Ricky Romero and can be found here. focused on the importance of a bounce-back season from Vernon Wells and is here. This section will center on Brett Wallace's development in Las Vegas and, eventually, Toronto.
5. Brett Wallace -- Once the Lyle years are over, it's going to be Brett Wallace that we'll see at first base. At just 23 years old, he's still got time to develop, be it in AAA or up in the majors, but having a masher like him is key to the Blue Jays longterm success.
Brett Wallace was drafted by the Cardinals in 2008 as a thirdbaseman out of Arizona State University and raced through the minors, reaching AAA early in 2009. The youngster did not miss a beat along the way and even batted .293 / .346 / .423 in his first taste of AAA at Memphis, before being traded to the Oakland Athletics. After being traded to the A's, Wallace hit even better at Oakland's AAA affiliate, Sacramento, where he batted .302 / .365 / .505 as just a 22 year-old. This season, Wallace has upped his game even more and his .282 / .365 / .624 line may inevitably force the Jays to bring him up to Toronto before long. Wallace has been spending the early part of 2010 learning to play first and there's no reason to expect that he shouldn't make himself into at least an adequate-fielding firstbaseman. After all, some of the game's finest fielders at the position today (e.g., Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira) began their careers as below-average fielding third basemen.
Wallace projects to be a solid middle-of-the-lineup masher who should be a mainstay in the Jays' lineup for years to come. So far, so good for Wallace, who has already hit eight homeruns at Las Vegas in 2010. Barring injury setback or promotion to the big leagues, there's no reason to expect Wallace not to continue to punish AAA PCL pitchers this summer. If the Jays continue to play .500 ball but Lyle Overbay starts slumping hard again, it's going to be tough for Alex Anthopoulos to keep Wallace down in the desert.
Speaking of AA, Like Kyle Drabek, Wallace is going to be a big factor into early assessments of Anthopoulos's management of the club. If Drabek's success is important because he was the jewel (and the only pitcher) acquired in the Doc deal, Wallace's success may be even more crucial to Anthopoulos because he was acquired in a straight prospect-for-prospect swap. It would go a long way towards making AA look good if Wallace continues his fine hitting. As long as Wallace's development, if he stays at AAA this season, look for him to OPS north of .920 or so and if he does make the jump to the bigs, it's really anybody's guess at his age. Hopefully scouts will have good things to say about his transition to playing first. There's no compelling reason to rush him, but he sure will be fun to watch.