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Here's a Thought: Michael Taylor Is Better Than Brett Wallace

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 12: U.S. Futures All-Star Brett Wallace of the St. Louis Cardinals plays third base during the 2009 XM All-Star Futures Game at Busch Stadium on July 12, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IDecember 17, 2009

When the A's acquired Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson from the Cardinals in July for Matt Holliday, my response was something of a "Meh."

I mean, the A's needed to trade Holliday, and I trust Billy Beane to get the best package of players he can, and a lot of people love Wallace, but I wasn't too thrilled with the package. Ultimately, it was somewhat similar to the Carlos Gonzalez-Huston Street-Greg Smith package used to acquire Holliday in the first place, so I figured it was pretty much a wash.

The only reason people saw the deal as a real victory for Oakland was not because of Mortensen, who had an awful stint in Oakland in 2009, and Peterson, a 1B/RF who hits like a CF; it was because of Wallace, who Fangraphs called the best prospect to change hands at the deadline.

Problem is, Wallace and his big body are best suited for DH or first base, much like the A's best power prospect, Chris Carter. The A's already have two young, quality major league first basemen in Daric Barton and Tommy Everidge.

Beyond that, Eric Chavez, if he's healthy, looks to steal some DH at-bats in 2010, and the offseason acquisition of Jake Fox further clouds the 1B/DH picture. With Carter and Barton strong possibilities to hold down DH and first base for the long haul, where would Wallace play?

Third base?

Nobody really likes Wallace's defense at third—even his supporters say he may become "acceptable" eventually, that is to say, he might become a below-average but playable third baseman.

And is Brett Wallace really that good a hitter?

For all the talk of him being something special, Wallace hit all of .297/.354/.460 in Triple-A this year, and he just turned 23, so it's not like he's way ahead on the age curve. All the talk of him being a future batting title winner doesn't seem realistic to me, unless Wallace has a lot of projection—and "projection" isn't a word often used to describe stocky 23-year-old DH-types.

So what did the A's do? Worried about where Wallace would fit into their plans, they sensibly traded him for Michael Taylor.

Wallace is about nine months younger than Taylor. That's about the only advantage that I can for him over the A’s new acquisition.

Taylor, like Wallace, has a huge body, but he's built more like an NFL tight end than a pudgy fullback, and is therefore a much better athlete than Wallace. He stole 21 bases this year and 15 the year before, and is credited with above-average speed and a very good outfield arm.

Taylor is a quality defensive corner outfielder who could play center if needed, although he wouldn't be much better there than Wallace would be at third. However, he gives the organization another impact bat on the rise, along with Double-A outfielder Grant Desme and Carter.

The three could form the heart of a potent Oakland lineup in years to come.

And how good of a hitter is Taylor? This year, he hit .320/.395/.549 to Wallace's .293/.367/.455. Last year, across two A-ball levels, he batted a whopping .346/.412/.557.

And here's the scary part: unlike Wallace, Taylor has a ton of projection. Baseball America said he "still isn't a natural hitter" entering 2009, and said he had "explosive power potential."

Michael Taylor sounds a bit like Frank Thomas with speed and outfield defense. That's a scary package.

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But Taylor hits for a great average, walks a fair amount, doesn't strike out much, hits for plus power, runs well, and can play plus right field defense.

There are really no flaws in his game, and his contact and power abilities stand out as plus-plus tools. He also has plenty of room to grow.

Wallace has major flaws in his athleticism, both defensively and on the basepaths. He doesn't walk any more than Taylor, and his offensive numbers, while solid, fail to knock me over. He also is close to maxed-out physically, so he likely has little room to grow.

I can't help but absolutely love this deal. How could I not?

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