Underachieving Wallace Makes The Grade





HOUSTON Ask the catcher himself, and Chris Wallace will tell you he's not having a breakout season.

Though he was a 10th-round pick last June out of Houston, Wallace said he doesn't think he is a different player now than he was in college. He has opened this season leading the low Class A South Atlantic League in pretty much everything but ejections, and he says the skills have always been there.

"I think I've always had the power I'm showing now," said Wallace, who hit seven home runs in his first 17 games with Lexington. "In college, for whatever reason, I didn't play to my capabilities, I guess you could say. Looking back, I would say I underachieved in college.

"But that's behind me. There's nothing I can do about it now."

In addition to the maturity and the game-calling that was expected of a catcher drafted as a college senior, Wallace is for the first time gaining notice for his bat.

Wallace led the Sally League with a .432 average, the product of an up-the-middle approach that has played even in his power game, and led all the minors with an .865 slugging percentage. He also led the Sally League with 22 RBIs and ranked second with a .506 on-base percentage.

"The good thing about it is that he's driving the ball out of the park—he hasn't pulled the ball yet. Everything's been left-center, right-center and right field," Lexington manager Rodney Linares said. "It was a pleasant surprise to see him do what he's doing right now."

Wallace hits in between Telvin Nash and Michael Kvasnicka and down the lineup from Delino DeShields Jr. and Jiovanni Mier on a team full of younger prospects. But Wallace is hardly lost.

"I didn't have a great spring training but I was working on some things and I figured some things out," Wallace said. "There was just one minor adjustment I needed to make, and that had to do with my stance, and from there it kind of clicked."

SPACE SHOTS

• The Astros released righander Cesar Carrillo, a 2005 first-round pick of the Padres who began the year at Double-A Corpus Christi and had a 9.64 ERA in five relief outings.

Jose Carlos Thompson, the Cuban infielder whom the Astros signed for $250,000 this offseason, began his professional career at Double-A after spending the first three weeks of the season at extended spring training. He got off to a 1-for-8 start with four strikeouts in eight at-bats.