Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Brett Wallace, IF

He has yet to play a single inning in the major leagues, but Brett Wallace's name is already a familiar one around baseball. That tends to happen when you are considered the "key" prospect in a deal for a major league star, in Wallace's case, Matt Holliday. We spoke to Wallace, a Bay Area native, about his thoughts on the trade to the Oakland A's, playing close to home and more…

It almost seemed like a matter of time before Brett Wallace was part of the Oakland A's organization. A Bay Area native, Wallace was on the A's draft radar last season and was close to being taken by the A's with the 12th overall pick. When Oakland went a different direction, Wallace became almost a cult figure among A's fans who would chart his progress religiously. Finally, on July 24, 2009, all of the hand-wringing about the A's missed opportunity in not taking Wallace was put to rest when Oakland acquired the infielder from St. Louis as part of the package for Matt Holliday.

It's easy to see why A's fans were so interested in Wallace. Since being drafted with pick 13 by St. Louis last season, Wallace has been on a quick rise towards the major leagues. He began his pro career in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League and hit .327 with a 908 OPS in 41 games before being promoted all of the way to Double-A Springfield in the Texas League. Wallace opened even more eyes with Springfield, batting .367 with a 1109 OPS in a 13-game stint.

After sending him to the Arizona Fall League and inviting him to big league camp, the Cardinals assigned Wallace to Springfield once again to start the season. He proved that his 13-game stint in 2008 was no fluke by hitting .281 with an 840 OPS in 32 games. That was enough to earn Wallace an early-season promotion to Triple-A Memphis, where he was up until the trade. He got off to a slow start with the Red Birds, but at the time of the trade, Wallace was batting .293 with a 769 OPS. He was also a starter for Team USA in the MLB Futures Game in July, which was played in St. Louis at Busch Stadium.

After the trade, the A's sent Wallace to Triple-A Sacramento, a mere hour from where he grew up in Napa. Wallace has been a fixture in the middle of the River Cats' line-up ever since the trade and is batting .265 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 17 games.

We caught up with Wallace on Saturday and spoke to him about playing close to home, his feelings on the trade and more…

OaklandClubhouse: How have the first few weeks gone being part of the A's organization?

Brett Wallace: It's great to be playing out here close to home and in front of friends and family. I've really gotten to see them a lot and I've gotten a chance to go home the past couple of days. It's exciting to be back in this area and, also, I grew up as an A's fan. Whenever you have a chance to be traded to the organization you grew up rooting for, it's pretty special.

OC: There were a lot of stories last year that the A's were close to taking you in the draft. Did it feel good to get to finally have the trade happen after all of that?

BW: Yeah, I was excited. During the draft, we definitely thought there was a chance that the A's would take me. When they didn't, it wasn't a let-down because obviously it's still such a great day, but I think this kind of finishes the story off coming back home. It was pretty awesome when it happened.

OC: You've had a meteoric rise through the St. Louis system and to be in Triple-A already and to have played in the Futures Game in front of – at the time – your hometown fans, what has this year been like for you?

BW: It's been crazy. It's been flying by, to be honest with you. I can't believe it is August right now. I got pushed to Double-A last year and did well, so they put me back there this year and then I did pretty well to start the year so they pushed me to Triple-A. It was pretty crazy. It hadn't maybe sunk in until the trade actually happened that I was really in Triple-A and that there was a chance I could be in a deal for someone like a Matt Holliday because I was in the upper echelon of the minor league levels now. It has been exciting. I don't think it has all sunk in quite yet, but it has been fun and hopefully I'll continue to do well here.

OC: What was it like to hit at Busch Stadium [during the Futures Game], especially when the fans were all rooting for you?

BW: It was awesome. Those fans there are so knowledgeable that being a prospect coming up with them, they were all there chanting and screaming our names. They turned on the full effect. Being able to be around all of those people was fun.

OC: How was the Arizona Fall League experience?

BW: It was a lot of fun. Going back to Phoenix, that is like my second home, so being back there and getting a chance to play in front of those people were great. Some of my coaches from college were there and my teammates [from ASU]. Getting a chance to play against that level of competition was great. You look at that list and most of them are in the big leagues now, but you talk to all of those guys and you get a chance to pick their brains and I got a chance to play in front of my friends, so it was pretty awesome.

OC: Were you teammates at all with Travis Buck when you were at ASU?

BW: No. His last year was the year before I got there, but I got a chance to know him a lot [during college] anyway. ASU is like a big family. Everyone comes back, so I've talked to Trav a lot. Now being here [as teammates in Sacramento], it's kind of cool to be able to learn from him and pick his brain a little bit.

OC: You had an ASU teammate, Mike Leake, who went pretty high in the draft this year [8th overall]. What kind of player is he?

BW: He's a bulldog. He's a pitcher and one of the best I've ever played with. Just his mentality is hard to beat. When you watch him pitch, you see that he just isn't going to lose. And if he gives up a few runs, he's not just going to quit on the game. It's exciting to play behind someone like that.

OC: You've been playing a little first base in addition to third base. Is there a position you feel most comfortable at?

BW: I'm comfortable wherever. I have played both enough that I feel comfortable at either one. Wherever they want me is fine.

OC: What is your philosophy when you are up at the plate? Are you looking for the first good pitch to drive, or are you trying to work the pitcher, or is it more of a mix of both?

BW: It kind of goes back and forth. It depends on how I am seeing the pitcher. Sometimes I'll swing at the first pitch. I don't have a problem doing that, but sometimes I want to work the count. It really just depends on the situation.

OC: Did you have a favorite player from the A's when you were growing up?

BW: Eric Chavez.

OC: Have you had a chance to meet him yet?

BW: I haven't. That is something I am really looking forward to doing. It will be really exciting.

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