It’s not common to see a highly regarded prospect traded twice less than two years after being drafted, but that’s exactly what happened to now Blue Jays’ farmhand Brett Wallace. As you know, the Cardinals shipped him to Oakland in last year’s Matt Holliday deal, and they turned around and flipped him to Toronto in the third leg of the Roy Halladay trade this winter. Regardless of where he’s been playing, Wallace has done what he’s always done: flat out rake.
After hitting a combined .293/.367/.455 with 20 homers and 26 doubles across two levels and three teams last season, Wallace is mashing to the tune of .301/.363/.507 for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate this year. With 14 homers and 20 doubles, he’s not far off from last season’s totals in 261 fewer plate appearances. It’s worth noting that the Pacific Coast League is a hitter friendly environment in general, especially where Wallace is playing in Las Vegas. MinorLeagueSplits.com has his park adjusted triple-slash line at .288/.351/.484, still outstanding.
The bat has never been an issue with Wallace. Baseball America said he “has outstanding bat control and knows how to get in favorable counts where he can do the most damage, allowing him to project for 20 homers per year despite not having outstanding raw power” when they named him the game’s 27th best prospect before the season. The question has been about position ever since he played at Arizona State, though the move to Toronto has cleared that picture up. After years of trying to fake it at third, Wallace has played first base exclusively since the trade (save for the occasional DH assignment) and figures to do so in the long run.
The good news is that Wallace retains 3B eligibility in Yahoo! leagues, where he’s owned in just 1% of leagues. Obviously he hasn’t been called up yet, so anyone that does own him is likely in a deep keeper league looking towards the future. The Blue Jays are slowly fading out of contention in the ultra-competitive AL East, having gone 11-15 this month and 13-20 dating back to May 20th. Incumbent first baseman Lyle Overbay is having a simply dreadful year, checking in at -0.1 WAR through the team’s first 77 games. He’s scheduled to become a free agent after the season, so Toronto could simply cut bait and designate Overbay for assignment if they don’t get lucky and find a trade partner infatuated with name recognition. Point is, the first base job can open up for Wallace at any time, especially now that we’re past all the service time milestones and the team has basically acquired another year of cost control.
CHONE predicted a .252/.306/.401 batting line with 16 doubles and 23 homers in 489 at-bats for Wallace this year, but he’s obviously not going to meet that playing time projection. The triple-slash projection isn’t unreasonable for a rookie in a division packed to the gills with power pitching, but that doesn’t make Wallace any less of a fantasy option, especially with 3B eligibility. He’s a must have in a keeper league, and definitely has value for the rest of 2010 in any league assuming a late-July promotion (at the latest).