Forrest Wall made his MLB debut with the Atlanta Braves after spending almost a decade in the Minor Leagues and served as pinch-running and outfield depth down the stretch in 2023.
Originally a first round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2014 out of high school, the Florida native was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018 as part of a package that brought relief pitcher Seunghwan Oh to the Rockies. After several seasons in the Toronto organization, Wall signed with the Seattle Mariners in 2022 and spent the season in Triple-A.
Prior to Spring Training 2023, Atlanta brought the stolen base threat in on a minor league contract.
What were the expectations?
Wall essentially hadn’t hit since Double-A, which he last played in back in 2019, so there was little reason to think he’d be an impact regular or role player. It seemed like he was largely brought in for depth, or if you were being generous, in case the rule changes for the 2023 season made fast guys appreciate in value or utility. Wall stole 52 bases in Triple-A in 2022 despite a 76 wRC+, a sign that he was largely just slapping at the ball (.333 OBP, .354 SLG) and making things happen with his legs. In short, there wasn’t even much of a reason to expect Wall to see the majors in 2023, much less make a statement.
With Sam Hilliard already in the organization, there was little reason to think Wall would be needed... but Hilliard eventually went down with injury, and Wall slid right into that role.
Wall repeated his feat of 52 steals in Triple-A in 2023 by doing so with Gwinnett in only 90 games. The door for Wall opened as a variety of other fourth outfielder candidates, including Jordan Luplow, Eli White, and Sam Hilliard all went down with injury and/or were shipped off to other organizations.
Wall was promoted to the big leagues for the first time on July 18, not as a replacement for another outfielder, but as a roster-filler for Kolby Allard. He made three pinch-running appearances and a pinch-hit appearance, staying in the game twice, before being sent down in mid-August, and then recalled when rosters expanded in September.
Overall, Wall saw action in 15 games, stealing five bases, getting thrown out once, and recording six hits (two doubles, one homer) in 15 plate appearances while walking twice. In an incredibly small sample size, he slashed .462/.533/.846, which adds up to a 265 wRC+. He totaled 0.4 fWAR despite slightly negative defensive value.
What went right?
For Wall, basically everything. Coming into the season, there was not a great chance he’d finally make his MLB debut, especially with September rosters no longer ballooning in size. But, injuries struck, the rules changed to make his skillset more valuable, and Wall finally got into an MLB game.
He stole second, and then third, in his MLB debut. He picked up his first MLB hit, a double, on August 12. He later managed another double, eventually picked up his first MLB homer, and even had a three-hit game on September 29. He even got two postseason PAs.
On top of all that, Wall outhit his xwOBA in 15 PAs by an absurd .349. Yes, to be clear: the gap between his wOBA and his xwOBA was bigger than the league-average xwOBA. He literally managed one ball-in-play event in 15 PAs with an xwOBA above .350, and just two with an xwOBA above .240, but nonetheless managed to collect six hits, somehow.
He had a grand old time playing against the Nationals late in the year. On September 24, he took over in the third for Michael Harris II, walked, stole a base, walked again, and then hit his first career homer. On September 29, he had three singles, including two of the infield variety, and stole another base. Here’s his homer, which wasn’t hit that well, but it was a charmed time in the majors for Wall.
What went wrong?
Other that being caught stealing in his second appearance as a pinch runner, it’s hard to find anything that went wrong for Wall. He even pushed his Triple-A wRC+ above 100 for the first time ever. Sure, you could point to his .220 MLB xwOBA as a blemish, but it gave us that giant wOBA-xwOBA gap, so it’s mostly just funny at this point.
Wall also appeared in two playoff games and got a single PA in a blowout, but those weren’t such a big deal. His worst moment was probably getting thrown out trying to steal when he was the tying run on first base with an out in the ninth, which was pretty brutal — the Braves went on to lose the game.
Wall’s showing in limited duty with Atlanta only improved his chances of finding a home on an MLB roster in 2024 as a reserve outfielder.
While he obviously won’t be able to repeat his MLB performance over a longer stretch of appearances, and probably projects as replacement level, he’s probably worth rostering at least at some points throughout the season for pinch-running value. He also has a bunch of minor league option years and service time, so the Braves may keep him around for as long as his legs are able to deliver.