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August 16, 2013

The Call-Up

Kolten Wong

by Jason Cole and Bret Sayre


The Situation: With the Cardinals offense sputtering just slightly of late, St. Louis is calling up second baseman Kolten Wong, who ranked no. 34 on Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season top 50 prospects list, to jolt the offense. Although the Cards already have an All-Star second baseman in Matt Carpenter, it’s unlikely the 22-year-old Wong is being brought up to ride the pine. Expect to see some lineup and positional shifting. Regular third baseman David Freese is having an underwhelming season––he’s hitting just .269/.348/.386––and Carpenter is experienced at the hot corner. St. Louis could begin placing Wong at second base and Carpenter at third with Freese coming off the bench. That’s a likely scenario against right-handed pitching especially, as Wong and Carpenter are both lefty bats while Freese is a righty.

Background: St. Louis selected Wong with its first-round pick (no. 22 overall) in the 2011 draft. A Hilo, Hawaii native and University of Hawaii product, Wong was a first-round pick despite his second-base profile and 5-foot-9 frame, which speaks volumes about his natural ability to hit and impressive overall skill set. Coming out of UH, Wong was regarded as an advanced bat who would hit his way through the minors quickly, and that’s exactly what he has done.

The lefty-swinging Wong debuted following the 2011 draft with Low-A Quad Cities, where he posted an impressive .335/.401/.510 slash line in 47 games. After spending his first full season at Double-A Springfield, Wong has played the 2013 campaign with Triple-A Memphis. Through 107 games this year, Wong had a .303/.369/.466 slash line that included 21 doubles, eight triples, and 10 home runs. He drew 41 walks, whiffed 60 times, and stole 20 bases in 21 attempts.

Scouting Report: Although Wong’s impressive Triple-A performance this season hasn’t changed his overall projection, it’s becoming increasingly evident that he’ll likely reach that potential. When Wong ranked sixth on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Cardinals Prospects list entering this season, Jason Parks wrote that Wong projected as a “high-five” player, or a solid-average major-league regular. I wrote the same when Wong was recently profiled with a full scouting report in BP’s Eyewitness Accounts series.

Given his polished all-around skill set, Wong may not be far from realizing that potential right now. He’ll likely provide some immediate value in St. Louis, at least the very least, giving competitive at-bats and flashing good leather. The diminutive prospect shows a future plus hit tool and plus glove at the keystone. While his speed is just average––he’ll consistently show 4.2-4.25 times to first base––his instincts and base-running skills enable it to play up.

While Wong’s overall power is a tick below average, he isn’t a punch-and-judy hitter; he has some sock for a little guy. The Hawaiian doesn’t often expand the zone––he’ll take a walk––but is an aggressive hitter who isn’t afraid to attack pitches within the zone early in the count. He’ll use all fields, showing some gap-to-gap pop all over with some pull-side home run power. At full maturity, Wong could becoming a .280-plus hitter with some doubles, some triples, low double-digit home runs, 15-25 steals, and a good glove. That’s a fine all-around player.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Eyewitness Accounts: A... (08/16)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article The Call-Up: Matt Davi... (08/13)
Next Column >>
Premium Article The Call-Up: Travis d'... (08/19)
Next Article >>
Overthinking It: Learn... (08/16)

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