The development of former top prospect Brett Wallace has been a slow, and sometimes disappointing journey.
He knows that. After all, there was a reason why the Toronto Blue Jays traded him to the Houston Astros for Anthony Gose, and the first baseman simply hadn’t come along as well as expected for a player who was formerly considered a top-30 prospect in the bigs.
That trade was three years ago, and after a third disappointing stint with the Astros in 2012 that saw Wallace put up a mediocre .746 OPS, the 26-year old won’t have the same kind of leeway afforded to him in previous years. There’s the fact that he still has minor league options left, and the team has also brought in Carlos Pena and Chris Carter to serve as competition for the Astros’ first base job.
It’s a job that they’d like Wallace to earn in 2013, though, and so far in spring training, he’s doing just that.
Through five spring training games so far, Wallace has notched six hits, including his second double of the Grapefruit League season on Friday afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s enough to land him in a tie for first on the team, well ahead of Carter and Pena’s two hits each.
The consistency at the plate is something that Wallace will need to continually show the Astros to separate himself from the field, because he doesn’t have the power tool that is usually associated with corner outfielders.
That’s not a problem he’s had in the minors, as his average in Triple-A had been over .300 over the last two seasons. That said, 16 homers in 792 big league at bats isn’t what any team wants from their first baseman, and especially not one that’s hitting .250.
Wallace does, however, have doubles power, and he’s putting that on display so far with the Astros this spring, while Carter (who hit his first homer of the spring on Friday) and Pena are still finding their legs.
The fact that he started at third base is also a point of interest. Matt Dominguez, who was acquired in 2012 from the Miami Marlins to be Houston’s third baseman, is slated to have the starting job in 2013; but, considering that Wallace started five games there last season, and that he will have Pena and Carter to compete with for playing time, perhaps Houston is looking to expand upon his backup role at third for 2013.
His defense won’t really make that an ideal situation, though, and Wallace would probably want to stick at his natural position at first base. So far in spring, he’s given Astros no reasons to change that.