StrategyMay 22, 2011

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Buyer Beware: Brett Wallace

By Josh Shepardson

Few upper echelon prospects in recent memory can say they’ve been part of more organizations before seeing time at the major league level than Brett Wallace. Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Wallace found himself dealt to the Oakland Athletics as part of a package to net Matt Holliday. He was then dealt in a rare prospect swap to the Toronto Blue Jays for Michael Taylor. Finally, he was dealt to the Houston Astros in yet another prospect swap for Anthony Gose. While changing organizations, Wallace also slid across the diamond, changing positions from third base to first base. In his second year with the Astros, it would appear Wallace is breaking out… but not so fast.

Considered a pure hitter when he was drafted out of Arizona State and coming up through the minors, it would be easy to believe his average will stay north of .300, where it stands now at .303. That is unlikely to be the case when his sky high and likely unsustainable .370 BABIP comes back to earth. As a big lumbering first baseman, his 54.1 percent groundball rate is going to be his undoing in more ways than one. The obvious harm of a high groundball rate is that short of an inside the park home run, you can’t hit a home run by pounding the ball into the ground. Never considered a big power hitter, a mid-teen home run total at season’s end looks about right. In addition to stifling his power, it’s likely more of his groundballs will find gloves as the season progresses, ultimately dropping his BABIP and batting average with it.

Not all is negative when glancing at Wallace’s 2011 season. He has made strides in his walk rate, seeing that increase from 5.0 percent in 159 plate appearances in 2010 to 9.9 percent in 162 plate appearances this season. He has also greatly improved his strikeout rate reducing it from 34.7 percent in 2010 to 22.5 percent, still a bit too high for a non-slugger, this year. While his future looks brighter now than it did coming into the season, he remains a player that should be unowned in all but the deepest of mixed leagues and NL-only formats.

Josh is a recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland where he majored in Sport Management. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad.
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