Over the past 20 years, first base has been a strength for the Houston Astros, especially when a team replaces a player like Jeff Bagwell with Lance Berkman.
However, Berkman was traded last season, and a new era begins in 2011 with highly touted prospect Brett Wallace.
Almost immediately after the Astros traded Roy Oswalt to the Phillies they traded one of the pieces in that trade, Anthony Gose, to the Blue Jays for Wallace. With the Astros basically throwing in the towel on the 2010 season, they gave Wallace his first regular playing time at the major-league level.
It wasn't exactly a fairy tale, as Wallace struggled to a .222 batting average with two home runs and 13 RBI.
Even though 2010 was tough for Wallace, the Astros are giving him another chance; he will enter this year as the starting first baseman.
This is what Astros fans can expect from Brett Wallace in 2011 and beyond.
In his three seasons in the minor leagues before coming to Houston, Brett Wallace had a .304 average, and hit .299 in his two seasons at the AAA level.
One aspect of his game that makes Wallace a top prospect is his plate discipline. However, his walk percentage has dropped as he has advanced each level, from almost 10 percent of his at-bats at the Class A level to about seven percent last year at the Class AAA level.
If he can get back to walking at a higher level, it will help increase his batting average.
To go along with good plate discipline, Brett Wallace has good bat speed, which allows him to hit for decent power.
He did only have two home runs last season with the Astros, but in the minors he averaged 19 home runs and 62 RBI in his two seasons at the AAA level.
If Wallace is able to improve on his walk rate, pitchers will have to throw him better pitches to hit, and easier pitches to hit should help his power numbers.
When Brett Wallace was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2008, he was penciled in as a third baseman. He worked very hard at the defensive part of his game and showed a good arm and a pretty good glove.
However, he also has limited range.
The Toronto Blue Jays decided last season to move Wallace to first base, which looks like the best spot for him. He played pretty well in the field for the Astros last season, compiling a fielding percentage of .992.
I see no reason for the positive trend not to continue as Wallace gets more comfortable at the position.
If Spring Training is any indication of the type of year Brett Wallace is in store for, he will turn some heads and be a great steal for the Astros.
In 53 at-bats this spring, Wallace is hitting .357 with one home run and 17 RBI. He has been one of the best Astros at the plate so far this year and if he improves from last season it will make the Astros' lineup much more dangerous.
His numbers will be based heavily on where he hits in the lineup. I think he would fit best hitting sixth behind Chris Johnson, but mlbdepthcharts.com has him hitting seventh behind Bill Hall, which could hurt his RBI and runs-scored numbers.
I expect Brett Wallace this season to hit somewhere around .275 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI.
I like what Brett Wallace brings to the Astros, and I'm optimistic he can continue in Bagwell and Berkman's footsteps and provide stability at first base for years to come.
Still, I don't expect him to match the type of numbers this early in his career that either player was able to produce in their tenure with Houston. I think Wallace has the plate discipline to regularly hit around .300 and average 25-30 home runs and 90-100 RBI.
I also expect him to continue to improve on his defense, and if Albert Pujols ends up leaving the Cardinals for a team in the American League Wallace may even end up winning a Gold Glove or two before his career is over.