Trades involving Brett Wallace are reminders that general managers believe the Arizona State product can be an impact hitter.
Traded three times since he was the 13th overall pick five years ago, Wallace is back in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. It's a pivotal season for the 26-year-old first baseman once ranked among the top 40 prospects in the minors.
Wallace has experienced mixed results in two previous auditions win the Houston Astros. But after he opened the season in a prolonged slump, he was sent to Oklahoma City to work on his swing.
“In this game you never give up,” said RedHawks infield coach Tom Lawless. “He ran into a tough spell for two weeks. If you get off to a tough start they're probably going to try and find somebody else.”
That somebody else was RedHawks corner infielder Brandon Laird, among the Pacific Coast League leaders in RBIs the first two weeks of the season.
Wallace has been given abbreviated opportunities in Houston, including being handed the starting job out of spring after he hit .273 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
But when Wallace opened the regular season batting .042 with Houston, a 1-for-24 slump with 17 strikeouts, the Astros sent him to OKC.
“This game is crazy,” Wallace said. “You can lose your rhythm pretty quickly. But it's also a game if you get at bats you can get it back quickly, too. I'm trying to find that rhythm again and get comfortable again.”
Wallace is starting to get some of his rhythm back. In seven games with the RedHawks, Wallace is hitting .250 but also has a .351 on base percentage and two home runs.
“I'm just trying to have fun,” Wallace said. “I just go up there and see the ball and hit it. I'm not over thinking things. It goes back to being natural and doing what comes easy to you. I'm getting back into that rhythm. I'm excited trying to build at bat after at bat.”
Wallace originally was drafted by the Cardinals in 2008.
Ranked as one of the top prospects in the minors, Wallace hit .337 his first year in pro baseball and played in the Futures Game the following year, slamming 20 homers in Oakland's system.
Three years ago, he hit .301 with 18 homers to earn a midseason promotion to Houston.
“He earned the right to play in the big leagues last summer,” said RedHawks hitting coach Leon Roberts. “He had a good year. He had a good spring. But he got off to a rough start. There have been numerous guys that have gotten off to a rough start in the big leagues early in their careers.
“The biggest thing is physically, mechanically and mentally get back on track and let his ability take over from there.”
Three years ago, Oakland traded All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday in a deal that featured Wallace. That offseason, Wallace he was traded again, this time to Toronto. After acquiring outfielder Michael Taylor in the Roy Halladay deal with Philadelphia, the Jays traded Taylor for Wallace.