January 30, 2009
Although many of you are preparing for
massive minimal chicken wing consumption Sunday, the launch of Y! fantasy baseball is right around the corner. To prepare you for the upcoming draft season, the Noise, every Friday until opening day, will feature a lesser-known prospect that has excellent odds of making an indelible fantasy impact this season. Obvious products David Price and Matt Wieters, and charitable Bon Jovi songs, need not apply.
Announced last week, Troy Glaus is expected to miss at least the first five weeks of the regular season after undergoing shoulder surgery, which means Brett Wallace, the Cardinals '08 first-round pick from Arizona State, is on the precipice of cracking the opening day starting lineup.
Wallace, one of baseball's premiere hitting prospects, has a major league ready bat. A patient, powerful lefty-swinger with tremendous statistical upside, the All-Star caliber youngster raked a .337 BA with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 202 at-bats between Single- and Double-A last season. Equally impressive, Wallace continued to wield a fiery stick in Arizona Fall League action, smacking a .309 BA with six homers and 24 RBIs in just 94 at-bats. Here's how John Vuch, Cardinals director of minor league operations, described Wallace's game:
"He's just a very polished hitter. He came to us that way and he's done everything we expected and he's brought more defensive aptitude than we thought. He's not the prototypical third baseman as far as his body type, but he's got more athleticism than you would initially think."
Analyzing his saber contributions under a microscope, one could easily classify his homer potential as "in development." His absurdly elevated 49.6 GB% (33.1 FB%) last season is very uncommon for a high-contact power hitter. For example, Aramis Ramirez posted a 31.3 GB% (48.3 FB%) a year ago. He may flirt with a .300 BA consistently, but until his GB:FB splits trend differently, he's more of the 15-20 HR variety.
In many ways, his minor league splits mimic those of KC's Billy Butler. Based on Butler's slow transition to big league pitching, it may take Wallace at least 400 MLB at-bats to discover his long-ball stroke. But with a strong spring campaign he could easily wind up trotting out to third base opening day, assuming he fends off another unheralded power prospect, David Freese (.306 BA, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 111:39 K:BB in 464 Triple-A at-bats last year), and possibly Brendan Ryan, Joe Mather and Joe Thurston.
Despite the ferocious bat, the one knock against the 21-year-old is his defense. Because of his bottom-heavy build (Seriously, if Butler swallowed Grimace, Wallace would have an American League clone), he's marginally nimble. For your enjoyment, here's Wallace's tree-trunk frame in animated color:
Sure the kid may squat elephants, but he's no Scott Rolen with the mitt. Still, if Albert Pujols can't convince the Cards to sign Manny Ramirez, it's possible the rookie's blazing bat may force management to overlook his suspect defense.
For now, keep close tabs on Wallace this spring. If he scorches at the plate, regular at-bats will be a certainty in April, which could make him mixed-league desirable. Keep in mind Glaus is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, meaning if Wallace plays admirably during his audition, it's very conceivable St. Louis will unload the veteran.
Because of his mammoth potential, Wallace is worth a Mr. Irrelevant selection late in your mixed draft ($3-$6 bid in NL-only auctions), especially in keeper formats.
So, will you hunt the Walrus in your draft? Discuss below.
Image courtesy of US Presswire