HOUSTON,TX - JUNE 03: Brett Wallace #29 of the Houston Astros reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds on June 3, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Houston defeated Cincinnati 5-3. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Lost in the news that Chris Johnson and the Astros snapping their 12 game losing streak was the return of Brett Wallace to the Major League club. In a post-game conference with the media Jeff Luhnow announced that the Astros were optioning Brian Bixler and recalling Brett Wallace to the Major League club.
In 11 games earlier this season Wallace posted a .333/.429/.583 line which is a big improvement over his disappointing .259/.334/.369 batting line in 2011. This season he's showing more power at the expense of his walk rate. Last season he posted a .110 ISO and a 9.5% walk rate in 379 plate appearances. This season he's posted a .250 ISO and a 7.1% walk rate in 42 plate appearances.
The small sample size caveat applies here and the .500 BABIP Wallace has posted so far this season infers that regression is on the way, but maybe even with some balancing Wallace will prove to be a valuable player of this organization going forward.
Between AAA and the majors last year Wallace hit six homeruns (1 AAA; 5 MLB). This season he's hit a combined 18 (16 AAA; 2 MLB). We're going to focus on his AAA numbers because that's the bigger sample size. We can't use 2011 because he only got 126 plate appearance at Oklahoma City so we'll go another year back to 2010 where he had 423 plate appearances with the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
That year he also smacked 18 homeruns while posting a .208 ISO. This year he's smacked 16 homeruns while posting a .206 ISO. That's pretty close, but also not. The park factors for where Wallace played are very different. With Toronto Wallace played in a pretty good hitters park, in Oklahoma Wallace played in a pretty good pitchers park. Taking park factors into consideration Wallace is hitting a lot better at AAA than he did with the Blue Jays back in 2010.
Another difference to make note of is his walk and strikeout rates and how they affect his power. If Wallace is hitting for power his walk and strikeout rate drop; if he's walking more he strikeouts more and hits for less power. A balance will need to be found, but it seems like this year he's become a little more patient while hitting for power, but at the cost of striking out a little more. Going forward it will be interesting to see if he can improve on his 8.1% walk rate, his 26.7% strikeout rate and his .116 ISO that he's already posted in 580 Major League plate appearances.
One thing is for certain, don't expect Wallace to be savior of this offense. He's not a .300/.400/.400 type of hitter, but that doesn't mean he won't be a productive hitter. Take this call-up for what it is, an evaluation.