Matt Laporta was drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft. He finished his first year in pro ball by hitting 12 HRs in 115 ABs between rookie ball and A-ball. Its safe to say a promotion was in order, as he was not tested in rookie or A ball. So, in 2008, he made the Brewers look good for the two level jump to AA Huntsville by hitting .288-.402-.576 with 20 HRs and 66 RBIs in 302 ABs.
With the Brewers in the midst of a playoff race, he was the main piece in a July, 2008 trade that sent pitcher CC Sabathia from the Indians to the Brewers. Sabathia went on to lead the Brewers to the playoffs and eventually signed a 7 year, $162 million deal with the Yankees. Laporta spent most of 2009 at AAA Columbus, hitting .299-.388-.530 with 17 HRs and 60 RBIs. He earned himself a call-up to Cleveland where he hit .254-.308-.442 with 7 HRs and 21 RBIs and a 37-12 K/BB rate in 181 ABs.
Then in 2010, he battled a hip injury, hitting just .221-.306-.362 with 12 HRs and 41 RBIs and a decent 82-46 K/BB rate. His 11% walk rate is solid, as is his 22% K rate, but he needs to improve upon his .250 BABIP and power.
Similarly, Brett Wallace was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Cardinals. In just over 200 ABs in 2008, he raked, hitting .337-.427-.530 with 8 HRs and 36 RBIs between Low A and AA. His performance earned him a Top 40 ranking by Baseball America, and deservedly so. In 2009, he started the season in AA hitting .281-.403-.438 with 5 HRs and 16 RBIs, earning a promotion to AAA Memphis where he hit .293-.346-.423 with 6 HRs and 19 RBIs. But there was talk that he couldn't stay at third base, and may not hit for much power in the big leagues.
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Then in late July 2009, Wallace was the centerpiece of a trade that sent him to Oakland in return for outfielder Matt Holliday. He finished the 2009 season at AAA Sacramento where he hit .302-.365-.505 with 9 HRs and 28 RBIs in a little under 200 at bats. Then in December 2009, Wallace was traded to Toronto for outfield prospect Michael Taylor. After a half season in Toronto GM Alex Anthopolous saw enough of him as he dealt Wallace yet again, this time to the Astros for outfield prospect Anthony Gose. I have to say when I heard about this deal, I was shocked. Anytime a top prospect gets traded twice, it raises eyebrows, but Wallace has now been dealt 3 times in two seasons. Stating the obvious, his prospect status has taken a big hit.
Laporta has seen time in the big leagues in 2009 and 2010, hitting a combined .232-.307-.388 with 19 HRs, 62 RBIs and a 119-58 K/BB rate in 557 at bats. Meanwhile Wallace got his cup of coffee in 2010, hitting .222-.296-.319 with 2 HRs and 13 RBIs in 144 ABs with a 50-8 K/BB rate. Small sample size aside, his 35% K rate and 5% BB rate is not the hitter GM Ed Wade traded for.
Laporta will be the Indians starting first baseman, and apparently is completely healthy coming into spring training. On the other hand, Wallace will have to win the first base job in spring training, as Houston has used outfielder Carlos Lee at first base last year.
Bill James projects Laporta to his .257-.335-.438 with 22 HRs and 77 RBIs in 2011. James did not offer projections for Wallace, but Baseball HQ's Ron Shandler projects him to hit just .245-.283-.376 with 13 HRs and 43 RBIs.
Both players have question marks, as they both need to prove they can hit for power at the big league level. Laporta is a late round draft pick in redraft leagues this year, but Wallace will probably be waiver wire fodder. Even still, Wallace has a pretty good shot at winning the first base job in Houston, as the Astros, like the Indians, are in total rebuild mode. Wallace should see plenty of at bats in 2011, and could made GM Ed Wade look good with a solid season at the plate.