After three years of raking at AAA while failing to live up to expectations at the big league level, Brett Wallace is running out of time. The 27-year old has no minor league options remaining. The first base job appears to be his to lose, but if he struggles like he did at the beginning of the 2013 season Brett could quickly become a former Astro.
Wallace began the 2013 season as the Astros starting first-baseman but got off to the worst start of his career. He looked lost at the plate and had trouble even making contact. The poor performance resulted in a trip to AAA after appearing in only seven ballgames.
Upon arriving in Oklahoma City, everything started to click for Brett. He began to dominate AAA pitching, as usual. Wallace would stay in OKC for a total of 60 games, posting a .326/.398/.554 slash line. For the third straight season he had no trouble figuring out AAA pitching.
Upon his return to the majors, Wallace showed some of the power that Astros fans had been waiting for. Still, the same fans that had been hashtagging Free Brett Wallace for two years seemed to have turned on the former first round pick. With his April struggles still fresh in their minds, fans were no longer singing his praises. He wasn’t meeting expectations. Perhaps his minor league success had raised those expectations to a point that may have become unattainable.
But has he actually been as bad as we think? Wallace’s 13 homeruns in 259 plate appearances after his callup were actually in the Chris Carter neighborhood in AB/HR ratio. And, despite the horrendous start, Brett’s .716 OPS for the season trailed only Carter and Jason Castro.
By posting an OPS+ of 96, 101, & 96 over the last three seasons, Wallace has actually been a league average player on offense.Obviously we have expected more, but it isn’t like he has been terrible.
I also think he has been underrated defensively. As a first-baseman Wallace has shown decent range and quickness. He can also play third base and fill in as an emergency shortstop.
Given his ups and downs at the plate, I think it stands to reason that Wallace will be better this season. Granted an average major leaguer isn’t ideal for the first base position. But this is a team that hasn’t been able to field more than a few above average players over the last three seasons.
If Wallace shows dramatic improvement he may be able to stick with the team. But, honestly, I don’t think he will be around for long. Jonathan Singleton is the heir apparent at first base. Jesus Guzman is going to need playing time and Japhet Amador could force his way into the mix at some point during the season.
If Wallace can find some sort of consistency and outplay those three players, then he will have earned his spot in the lineup. If not, he may be headed out of town sooner rather than later. I’m hoping that the former turns out to be the case… at least for most or all of the 2014 season.