Is right-hander Jacob Wallace ‘the best pure relief prospect’ in the Red Sox’ farm system?

It has been roughly 18 months since the Red Sox traded veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar to the Rockies for a player to be named later in August 2020. Less than three weeks later, the trade was completed when Boston acquired pitching prospect Jacob Wallace from Colorado.

A former third-round draft pick of the Rockies in 2019, Wallace drew immediate interest from the Red Sox fanbase since he hails from Methuen, Mass. and played his college baseball at the University of Connecticut.

After making his organizational debut at fall instructs, Wallace entered last spring ranked by Baseball America as the No. 28 prospect in the Sox’ farm system. The right-handed reliever broke minor-league camp with High-A Greenville, though he did not get off to the best of starts.

In his first 27 appearances out of the bullpen for the Drive, Wallace struggled to the tune of a 7.96 ERA and 5.66 FIP to go along with 43 strikeouts to 19 walks over 31 2/3 innings of work.

That miserable stretch lasted from May 5 through Aug. 1. Four days later, it was almost as if a flip had switched for Wallace when he punched out four of the six batters he faced in two scoreless frames against the Rome Braves at Fluor Field.

From that point on, the 23-year-old seemingly turned his 2021 around for the better by posting a 2.12 ERA and miniscule 1.12 FIP while recording 33 strikeouts to just six walks across his final 12 outings (17 innings pitched) of the year.

Most notably, Wallace made some history when he tossed the ninth and final inning of a combined no-hitter against the Asheville Tourists on September 2. Jeremy Wu-Yelland had started that contest and hurled five shutout frames, while Jose Espada Oddanier Mosqueda combined for three scoreless innings before Wallace closed out a 6-0 victory for Greenville.

Among High-A East pitchers who accrued at least 40 innings on the mound last season, Wallace ranked sixth in strikeouts per nine innings (14.05), 10th in strikeout rate (34.5%), and fourth in swinging strike rate (18.5%), per FanGraphs.

While Wallace was clearly among the top strike throwers at the High-A level in 2021, the righty still seemed to struggle with his control to some degree. His 4.62 walks per nine innings and 11.4% walk rate last year are indicators of that.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Wallace utilizes a unique delivery and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 96-98 mph fastball, an 84-86 mph slider, and a slider that he added after turning pro, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Along those same lines, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall tweeted on Monday that he believes Wallace is “the best pure relief prospect in the system” and “could move quick if he can build on his end to 2021.”

Wallace, who does not turn 24 until August, is currently projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season with Double-A Portland. The hard-throwing hurler can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter, so the Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by late November if they want to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Jacob Wallace courtesy of the Greenville Drive)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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