Kolten Wong and One Bad Month

Dilip Vishwanat

The Cardinals second baseman struggled in April, got sent down, and got forgotten. Maybe now is the time to start remembering him.

(Don't make a Wong-sounds-like-wrong joke. Don't make a Wong-sounds-like-wrong joke. Don't make a Wong-sounds-like-wrong joke.)

Kolten Wong got sent down to the minors in late April. Having entered the season as the St. Louis Cardinals starting second baseman, the fact that he struggled to a .225/.276/.268 line with only five runs, five RBI, three steals, and no homers through basically a month was a disappointment. Rational minds can disagree, but sending down a kid who struggled in the short term while not getting full-time playing time seems less than ideal.

This was the same Wong who we ranked 21st among second basemen in the preseason. The 21st-ranked second baseman isn't a must-own superstar, but it's a guy who - theoretically at least - should get some rope, particularly when it's a prospect who was hyped as your starter-to-be. But the Cardinals' depth became their curse there, as the presence of Mark Ellis allowed manager Mike Matheny to bench Wong far more often than would have happened on a team with Josh Wilson or Danny Valencia or something as its backup infielders.

(But I really want to make the joke! /No, you can't, it's stupid and not funny and not even kind of clever.)

Regardless, Wong-the-prospect got demoted April 25. It wasn't for long - he played in the bigs again May 16 - but it was long enough for Wong to go from "low-end fantasy darling" to "who?" He plummeted in ownership percentage, to the point where he was an afterthought in all but the deepest leagues.

Which is why it was funny when he came back up and was on fire. In his first 10 games back in the bigs, Wong raised his season batting average 58 points, his on-base percentage 60, and his slugging percentage 77. In 10 games, he more than doubled his output in runs, RBI, and stolen bases.

I'm not claiming Wong is his .381/.435/.476 self from those 10 games, but neither am I (nor should you) claiming that he is that .225/.276/.268 sent-to-AAA guy from April. And since that 10-game stretch, he's struggled again, .087/.192/.217 in his last eight.

(Ah, come on, people expect it out of me. /Nope! Not allowed. It might even be kinda racist, but I'm not sure. Either way, it's just so undignified.)

I'm parsing a small sample down to even smaller bits just to highlight the vagaries of in-season performance. We're a couple weeks into June, and Wong is 70 games into his career. Anyone drawing conclusions on his value based on those 70 (or fewer, in the case of team officials who decided to send him to AAA) is Doing It Wrong. We entered 2014 with years of scouting reports and information about Wong; to go against all that information because "OMG BAD THREE WEEKS" is pretty danged stupid.

So then, what did we think Kolten Wong would be at the start of the season? In Jason Hunt's prospect review from back in February, he highlighted Wong, describing him as a player who wouldn't really be a five-category contributor, but would definitely have his batting average. In an MLB environment with a .251 league batting average now, the fact that Wong can be reasonable expected to hit .280 or so is a big help.

(Two paragraphs ago, I said "Doing It Wrong," and I did it knowing it sounds like Wong. Hahaha. /Yeah, I know, and you better watch yourself, mister. You're on thin ice.)

On top of that, Wong can run a little. Yes, a little. He topped out at 21 stolen bases in a season in the minors, but stole 20-plus twice. He's not Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton, but Wong already has eight steals this season, setting him up for 20-25 steals over the course of the full season. His power hasn't shown up yet in the bigs - one home run as a big-leaguer - but he's got more pop than Elvis Andrus. He'll never hit 20, but he'll have seven, 10. Enough power to at least acknowledge.

You don't want Kolten Wong as your starting second baseman in fantasy. Not unless you're in a 20-team league. But as your MI, he's worth a spot, and he's worth more than his 18-percent Yahoo! ownership as of Thursday.

(WONG IS RIGHT!!!! /That's it, I'm getting my belt.)

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