Chris Wallace behind the plate. (Courtesy of Subber10's sister)
It's easy to identify the top talents at any level. It's difficult to find the diamond in the rough. Well, that's exactly what Bobby Heck did in the 2009 draft with JD Martinez. But, could he have done the same thing in 2010 with Chris Wallace? Early returns on his bat suggest it's a solid possibility. He raked in Greeneville after being drafted but struggled in a late promotion to Tri-City. Then he started this season by raking once again in the Sally League. He even won the home run derby and immediately was promoted to Corpus. Aside from struggling in the NYPL, his career is eerily similar to JD Martinez's so far.
I'm not trying to compare the two players because they are very different in positional value and at the plate, its just they are taking a similar path. C-Wall has provide more power in his career but hasn't shown the on-base skills that JD has. Wallace has actually been fairly good with his plate discipline before his huge bump in strikeout numbers since his promotion (small sample size). He just hasn't hit for that high of an average. His bat should translate fairly well to the majors.
But, this isn't about what he can provide on offense, this is about his defense. After all, we are talking about a catcher and we know how much weight the Astros put on defense from that position (I'm looking at you JR Towles). Unfortunately, we don't have many scouting reports to go off of for him, and the ones that we do have aren't very detailed and a little dated. What we do have is statistics! Those stats have also been very promising. Until now! He posted a 37% caught stealing percentage at Greeneville and followed that up with an astounding 56% in Tri-City. He then posted a 39% at Lexington this season. But, that big jump ruined it as he only has 10% at Corpus.
So, what do we know about his defense? His arm is terrible.
Of course I'm joking. You didn't think I'd write an article saying his arm is weak with that little bit of data, did you? Sure, you expect it to drop as he moves up and the base runners become a whole lot more selective and much better at swiping bags. But, that is a big drop off.
In all seriousness, the few reports we can go on primarily mention his defense as "solid" or "adequate," which means he's average behind the plate. I even found one that says "more than adequate" which could translate into above average. These reports are primarily going to be focusing on footwork, blocking and fielding, which are definitely very important, but there's a lot more to it. You have pop times, arm strength, accuracy and calling games which have to be factored into evaluating a catcher's defense. Sure, scouts factor that into the "average" grade, but it doesn't tell you much since there are so many differenct skills involved.
But, in looking at those primary skills (blocking, fielding, and footwork), he has been able to support those reports with his stats. This season, he has allowed a total of five passed balls and only one of those has been since his promotion to Corpus. Unfortunately, not even those statistics are truly reliable either as the difference between a passed ball and wild pitch is the judgement of the official scorer.
Of the skills we have heard much about is his appitude for calling games. So, I set out to ask those who have witnessed him in action. One of the best quotes I received was from TCVfan "The thing that sticks out to me was how good he would throw to the bases. Never afraid to make snap throws, strong and accurate." That is very good news as that is something the Astros like in catchers. Which is also why you see such strong numbers for throwing base runners out in the low minors. As for framing pitches, he moves very little and receives the ball very well. Although, he did struggle with balls in the dirt and "seemed frustrated" chasing after them. That can go two ways; frustration can lead to giving up or it can give way to solid work ethic in that area. Based off the fact that he is still stepping into the batter's box after getting hit in the face by a 95 MPH fastball, I'd say he has the type of character to put in the work.
Then, you have our own TCB regulars, ccislander and StrosSouth, that think he does a really good job behind the plate and don't have many concerns about his defense. I believe their thoughts range from solid to better than what most might expect. You also have the Lexington Legend regular on twitter, eFiveTweets who saw a guy who wasn't spectacular but didn't stand out in a bad way either.
I think we have established that by scouting reports, we shouldn't have many concerns about him behind the plate. He won't stand out for his defensive play and isn't highly regarded behind the plate as Jason Castro, but he'll likely be servicable. We aren't looking for a Humberto Quintero type at blocking balls, just not Kevin Cash, so he should be fine. Tomorrow, I'll break down the stats into his CS% numbers.