"He's been a big part of this organization for past few years, but we didn't see a role for him at the big league level," Luhnow on Wallace.
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) March 12, 2014
Back when the Astros flipped Anthony Gose to Toronto for Wallace, we said - naively - "Looks like the Astros got their 1B of the future!"
Keith Law wrote at the time:
He's twice as valuable a prospect as Gose. Despite concerns over his lateral mobility, he's a capable first baseman who will hit for average, get on base and have enough power to be an above-average or better player there.
Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said:
We thought long and hard about this. We tried to find ways to make this trade without including Brett Wallace, but the Astros were pretty adamant that Brett was going to need to be part of this, and we ultimately made the decision. We felt this was the right move for us.
Wallace debuted in 2008, hitting .337/.427/.530 between Low-A Quad Cities and Double-A Springfield, earning him a #40 prospect ranking from Baseball America and a #37 ranking from Baseball Prospectus. He followed that up with a .293/.367/.455 line between Springfield, Triple-A Memphis, and Triple-A Sacramento after he was traded to Oakland in the Matt Holliday deal. Wallace jumped to #27 in BA's Top 100 prior to 2010. Traded to Toronto in the Michael Taylor deal, Wallace hit .301/.359/.509 for Triple-A Las Vegas.
And then he came to Houston. In 51 games at the end of the 2010 season, Wallace hit .222/.296/.319 for the Astros. He showed flashes of the player he was in the minors and got multiple chances to prove himself. In April 2011, Wallace started the season hitting .388/.458/.529, and then didn't have an OPS over .800 in any month for the rest of the season. In August 2012, he hit .287/.344/.483 with four homers, and then followed that up with a .608 OPS in September.
2013 happened. He opened the season on a 1x24 stretch with 17 strikeouts (22 of his first 46 PAs of the season ended with him walking back to the dugout with a blank, dazed look in his eyes). When Wallace came back from OKC, he hit 11 homers in July and August, but collapsed again in September. In parts of four seasons (1077 PAs), Wallace hit .242/.313/.391 with 318 strikeouts, 80 walks, and 29 home runs for the Astros. This was a make-or-break Spring for Brett Wallace. We like to say that Spring Training doesn't matter, unless it does. That Wallace was 2x14 with eight strikeouts in eight games this month meant that the Astros had to pull the plug on Wallace.
Wallace's legacy - for me (it may be something else for you) - is that sometimes can't-miss prospects miss. Acquiring Wallace was one of the jewels of Ed Wade's tenure. Maybe it's my own fault for thinking that Wallace was the 1B heir to Jeff Bagwell - not as good, of course, but the guy who would be at first for the next ten to fifteen years. You won't find anyone who thought that this is how Brett Wallace's Houston story would end.