TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #4: Kolten Wong

The 2011 first-rounder passed his initial tests. How quickly will he advance in 2012? Today's report is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA 2B 10/10/1990 5-9 180 L R 2011 1st

School: University of Hawaii

Selected 2011 stats

QC 0.335 194 39 65 15 2 5 25 21 24 9 0.401 0.510 0.911

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (4): The selection of Kolten Wong as the Cardinals' #1 draft pick in 2011 was panned by many Cardinals fans. It was considered another low risk, low ceiling type of pick for which many draft experts have criticized the Cardinals over the last decade. After a half a year in the minors, Wong has done his best to prove them wrong. He did this by showing more power and greater defensive prowess than most observers predicted.

Wong's nearly 50-50 BB:K ratio in his first year is impressive. He showed improvement on the base paths as he was thrown out four times in his first 8 professional stolen base attempts but them was successful in his last five. But what gets my attention most is his .911 OPS at Quad Cities. That figure would have placed him third in the league and the highest-ranking middle infielder (by a wide margin) if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

Wong is definitely in line for a promotion to open 2012 and many think he could be ready for Double-A (skipping high-A Palm Beach). However, Wong is actually a year younger than normal for his draft class - at 21 years old for the entire 2012 season. There will be little pressure to rush Wong because of age concerns, meaning I think it is more likely he starts Palm Beach – though a quick promotion to Double-A does not seem out of the question. Wong could even see Triple-A in 2012 but his promotion rate may determined by the success of the second basemen on the Cardinals' major league roster as much as his own performance.

Message board community (4): Wong was also the community's fourth prospect. He received his first vote for third. Wong skipped the short-season leagues and went straight to Quad Cities, where he had an OPS (.911), more than .200 above league average, in 222 at-bats. He was particularly good at getting on base, with an OBP of .401, and nearly as many walks (21) as strikeouts (24).

Wong finished better (OPS of 1.083 in August and September combined) than he started (OPS of .792 in July), suggesting that he adjusted successfully to the level of competition. He did struggle against lefties (OPS of .668 in 55 plate appearances) compared to righties (.987 OPS). And he hit much better at home (1.033 OPS) than on the road (.768). My co-writer BobReed noted that adjusting for level of competition and ballpark, Wong had the second best OPS in college ball last year.

At the time he was drafted, there were some questions about Wong's defense, but some reports of his fielding this year were quite favorable. He'll play all of next year at age 21, and I'd think it likely that he will finish the year in Double-A. If Wong's fielding is, indeed, above average, and if he hits as well as seems possible, he should play second base in the big leagues for a long while. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (4): Do you know the last Cardinals prospect who came up through the system, then led the major league club in starts at the second base position? (Let's agree to put aside the Skip Schumaker experiment, which while valiantly played, is still defined by an outfielder playing the infield.)

The answer is Adam Kennedy, but not in the way you may think. Taken 20th overall in the 1997 Draft, he made his St. Louis debut during the 1999 campaign, but did not lead the team in games that season. That year, Super Joe McEwing, who interviewed for the managerial opening this off-season, made the most starts at second base.

Few complained when free agent Fernando Vina was signed before the 2000 season, freeing up Kennedy to be part of the deal which netted the Cardinals Jim Edmonds.

Kennedy did not claim this home-grown distinction until his 2007-2008 return, but at that point, he was a free agent signing from the Angels. Since, he has turned into a journeyman, having joined his fifth organization, the Dodgers, since leaving St. Louis.

What does this digression into history have to do with Wong?

The Cardinals have long had a revolving door at second base, going 14 years in between investing in a true high-ceiling candidate via the draft. Now, they have one in Wong, taken 22nd overall this past June. I was encouraged that the organization moved to address one of their most-pressing system-wide needs.

If Wong follows the Kennedy schedule (and why shouldn't he?), he would be moved ahead aggressively. That means jumping from A to Double-A to Triple-A this season, followed by an Arizona Fall League stint in October and November. 2013 would include a Futures Game appearance, Pacific Coast League All-Star berth, the system-wide Player of the Year award and a Team USA stint, culminating with a late August debut with St. Louis. Why not set the bar high?

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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