Name: Brett Wallace | Organization: St. Louis Cardinals
Position: Third Base | Drafted: 2008 1st Round (13th)
Bats: Left | Throws: Right | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 245
In December 2007 I did my first collegiate list ranking the top five hitters of the NCAA Junior class. I had a great time doing this as the months prior gave me a great opportunity to start digging deeper into college baseball.
My results were very much a mixed bag amongst readers as everyone agreed about the names on the list, however not everyone agreed on my rankings. My list from 12/8/07 had big names from this past summer’s draft including the top two on the list which caused the most discussion. Many people thought the young slugger from Vanderbilt, Pedro Alvarez, was the top hitter while I thought the more well rounded hitter, Brett Wallace, deserved the top spot. Needless to say there was a lot of good debate on the subject.
While that was over a year ago, I still stand by my original statement and believe Wallace was the best overall offensive player from the group. In fact, in college Wallace was the 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year as a sophmore when he won the Triple Crown. The best part of Wallace’s success and make-up is that his game will translate very well to pro ball.
Scouting Report: When discussing Brett Wallace’s game we have to first start with his bat. There really isn’t any other direction to go since it is what makes him worth talking about. As I mentioned earlier, despite people who have strongly disagreed with me, I believe Wallace is the best offensive player that came from the 2008 MLB draft. While he may not have as much power of some of his fellow draftees, his overall offensive game is the strongest.
First let’s start with his approach at the plate. Wallace has very good plate discipline considering his age as it generally takes some time to get everything in synch. But Wallace is the type of hitter who refuses to expand his strike zone and waits pitchers out, forcing them to throw him something he can make solid contact with. Wallace also does a great job in plate coverage thanks to his batting stance which crowds the plate. With his advanced approach, Wallace has the potential to translate his success to the pros and could end up being a perennial on-base machine with OBPs around .400.
With having such a fine tuned eye at the plate, Wallace’s ability to be productive in the pros is pretty much set. But when you include his swing and the power he generates, you end up piecing together why he has the potential to be so special.
We now move on to what happens when Wallace finds his pitch. As I mentioned earlier, Wallace tends to crowd the plate which gives him great reach for the entire plate. This allows him to reach the outside corner and his short stroke allows him to turn on inside pitches. He also keeps his hands held high in the air and keeps his weight back allowing him to help generate power and use as a timing mechanism. Wallace’s short stroke goes right through the ball which follows up with a very hard uppercut swing. His swing is built to be a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter but he is strong enough and has the bat speed to hit homer totals into the 30′s.
If I were going to portray his skills to what they would translate to in the majors, I would say he is a .280-.300 hitter, around .380-.400 OBP and a slugging percentage in the upper .500′s. Then add in his 25-30 homers and 100+ RBI and you have a pretty strong offensive weapon that Albert Pujols will love having hit behind him.
On the defensive side however, things aren’t quite as rosy. Wallace’s offense has never been questioned but his defense has always been something he’s criticized for. Wallace would be best suited to play first base but we all know that position is going to be held down for quite a while in St. Louis. So third base looks to be where this kid will be saddled while with the Cardinals. Many don’t think he is athletic enough to stay at this position but unless the Cards intend on trading him, there really aren’t many options with no DH rule in the National League.
By simply looking at him you would automatically assume he won’t be able to play the hot corner. Sometimes I wonder if this is as deep as many scouts dig into his defensive abilities and just label him as a liability there. But the truth is Wallace does have some quickness and the feet to play an average third base. He also has pretty good hands and a fairly strong arm. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but it is what it is.
While all this translates to an average third baseman, where I worry is in his ability to react to hard hit balls. I mentioned earlier how he has some quickness, but perhaps not enough to compensate on balls that are smashed in his direction. This could partially be counteracted by where he positions himself depending on the hitter, count and situation, but you really can’t coach reaction time which could be a giant flaw in his game. Basically I don’t see him killing his team with his defense, but I don’t see him helping at all either.
Overall Brett Wallace is going to be a solid player for the Cardinals for many, many years. If they can just get adequate defense from him at third they will have found themselves an All-Star offensive weapon that will be able to protect Pujols in the lineup.
Maybe we’ll even be able to say “Pedro who?”
By Matthew Whipps
“The Diamond Cutter“
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist