Cards Promotion of Wallace Raises Questions

Well, that was certainly an ugly game. In fact, it was so ugly that I really don't have anything much to say about it. And so, I won't.

But while the Cardinals themselves were crapping the bed against a Pittsburgh Pirates team that has traded away their best players this year, a very interesting development was taking place in the Cards' farm system.


The Cards promoted Brett Wallace, their first round draft pick this year, to Double A Springfield. Part of the reason he's there is because Allen Craig, the regular third baseman at Springfield, is currently on the DL with an aching back. The other part, though, is that the Walrus was just flat-out beating up on low class A pitching. At Quad Cities, Wallace put up a slash line of .327/.418/.490 in 153 at bats. Now, that slugging may not look super impressive to you, but for a player straight out of college, getting his first taste of professional baseball, trust me, that triple slash line is wicked good.

The interesting thing about this promotion is that it's incredibly aggressive. Now, as I said before, it's entirely possible that Wallace is at Double A mostly because of the injury to Craig, and he'll return to low A when Craig comes off the disabled list. Even if that is the case, though, this is still an unusual move.

See, teams usually like to be very, very careful with their blue chip prospects. They worry that pushing a guy too fast too soon will end up hurting his confidence, which can lead to a whole host of other issues. Many is the young player who has found his progress derailed by struggling to adjust to a higher level than what they're ready for. A player finds himself overmatched, he struggles to adjust, gets away from his game, and then simply cannot find his way back. Some players take months or even years to get themselves back to where they were. Some players never find it again.

What I'm trying to say is that the Cardinals, despite possibly using Wallace as an injury replacement, are also taking a very large risk with their brand new golden boy. They seem to be very confident that Wallace is ready to be challenged. If there were any doubts, I would have to think the Cards would use some organizational fodder type player to fill in. The fact that they're sending Wallace, less than three months out of college, to Double A, tells us an awful lot about the level of belief they have in this kid.

Probably the most recent example of a player similar to Wallace would be the Milwaukee Brewers' 2007 first round draft pick, Matt LaPorta. Now that name probably sounds a little familiar to you, and there's a good reason for that. LaPorta was the principle player dealt to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for CC Sabathia.

LaPorta was a college senior, so he was already a year older and more experienced than what Wallace was at the time he was drafted. The Brewers, immediately after the draft, sent LaPorta to one of their lowest level affiliates, rookie level Helena. After only a handful of games there to get acclimated, LaPorta was promoted to A ball in West Virgina. He finished out the season there, hitting .318/.392/.750 in 88 total at bats.

At the beginning of this season, Milwaukee sent LaPorta, ranked their No. 1 prospect in the off-season, to Double A. He hit well there, with a .288 average to go along with a .402 on-base percentage and a .576 slugging percentage. When the Brewers looked around to try and find a piece to put them over the top, they settled on the big Cleveland lefty, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Again, LaPorta was already a hugely advanced hitter, with four years of college ball under his belt. He didn't receive a crack at Double A until the year after he was drafted. Now, we all know that Wallace is advanced as a hitter as well, but to see a player other than a college reliever as high as Double A the same summer that he was drafted is almost unheard of.

Whether this experiment in aggressive promotion will be ultimately successful will, of course, not be known for quite a while. Either way, though, the Cardinals have certainly thrown down the gauntlet on pushing their prospects until they struggle. If Wallace struggles, heck, he's still only in his first professional season. If he succeeds, then his stock will jump even higher.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see how it turns out.

- Aaron Schafer

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