TCN 2014 Cardinals Prospect #3: Kolten Wong

Will the highly-touted rookie second baseman seize the starting job in St. Louis in 2014?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)

2013 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
6 2B 10/10/1990 5-9 180 L R 2011 1st

School: University of Hawaii

Selected 2013 stats

Mem 0.303 0.332 412 68 125 21 10 45 41 60 20 0.370 0.369 0.466 0.835
StL 0.153 0.191 59 6 9 1 0 0 3 12 3 0.168 0.194 0.169 0.363

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (3): Kolten Wong was ranked by the community last year at the seventh spot. He moves up four spots a year later following a season during which he was awarded the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year Award for positional players.

Over two years since being drafted in the first round, Wong carries a professional way of playing the game and is known for performing well with consistency. He is a guy who just "gets it". Wong's 2013 performance is very reflective of how he played throughout his college and professional career.

In 107 games played, Wong had 36-multiple-hit outings, and logged seven hitting streaks of five games or more, including his longest of 15 games. On the year, he developed into a patient hitter who did not strike out a lot at the Triple-A level. Wong continued to show off his ability to put the bat on the ball with a .303 average. He accepted walks that helps profile him as a top-of-the-order hitter with a .369 OBP and even finished fifth in the organization in slugging at .466. This is not a guy who hits for a lot of power but he does have a little sock in that line-drive, spray the ball to all fields swing of his.

All of this was accomplished while he competed in his first season at the highest level of the minor leagues, Triple-A. What remains to be seen is how Wong can translate that track record over to the major leagues. He did get a September call-up and was among the 25 players on the Cardinals' post-season roster through the World Series.

Now with regular third baseman David Freese traded to the Angels, that allows for Matt Carpenter to slide back over to his natural position at third base. With the insurance of right-handed hitting Mark Ellis, it is still not a given as to how much playing time Wong will see in his rookie year.

Defensively, there no question about what Wong can do. For most young hitters new to the major league scene to have the same kind of success they had in the minor leagues it is all about translating the hit tool over. That often can take the longest in a prospect's development.

The way I envision the second base situation is that Wong and Ellis will have a straight platoon to start the season, then Wong gets progressively more at bats against lefties as the year continues - if he proves he can hit southpaw pitching. If he does, Wong will be the everyday second baseman for the next six seasons, adding an element of speed to the Cardinals lineup along with his good all-around skill set. - DTFlush234

Brian Walton (3): In a relatively short period of time as a minor leaguer, Wong checked off every box needed to show he is ready for the major leagues.

Offensively, the left-handed batter hit for average, logged a good on-base mark and set the table well from the top of the lineup, stole bases effectively and even showed some pop for a middle infielder.

Unfortunately, those unfamiliar with Wong's consistency as a minor leaguer may have developed a negative impression of him due to his unfortunate baserunning mistake in the World Series. Wong wore the goat horns when he was picked off first base to end Game 4. It was a rough incident, but not career-defining.

The recently-turned 23-year-old has wheels, having led the entire system with a Memphis-team record-tying eight triples. Wong's stolen base count of 20 was tied for third in the organization and he is clearly smart on the bases. His success rate of 95.2 percent led all Cardinals farmhands with double-digit attempts.

Beyond his strong OBP, Wong demonstrated a good eye at the plate by striking out just 14.6 percent of the time.

Our Memphis Redbirds Player of the Year earlier earned both The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization Player of the Month recognition in May and appeared in his second consecutive MLB Futures Game in July.

Still, Wong has two strikes in some fans' eyes based on his tepid major league introduction. With just sporadic playing time as St. Louis was battling for a playoff berth, the younger did not immediately impress, batting just .153. Wong is hardly the first to not take off in his initial taste of the bigs, though.

Take Matt Carpenter, for example. Like Wong, he had been the Cardinals' system-wide Player of the Year. When Carpenter was initially called up in 2011, he batted just .067. We all know he turned out just fine in 2012 and was even better in 2013.

There is absolutely no reason to believe Wong could not follow a similar path, though a 2013-like Carpenter performance would be unfair to expect out of the gates. Instead, 2014 will be a transition year. One thing is for sure. Mark Ellis will turn 37 in June and is on a one-year contract. Only one of the two of the second basemen will be around for the long haul.

Our 2014 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 the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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