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Waiting in the Wings: Kolten Wong

The Cardinals second sacker has raced through the minors. What can he bring to prospective fantasy owners?


What if I told you that a prospect was going to be Marco Scutaro? Would that be something you're interested in? Obviously it's not like hearing that a prospect will be the next Brandon Phillips or Jeff Kent or pick some other all-star second baseman, has value right? Well that's where I've landed on Kolten Wong. He's not necessarily the same style player as Scutaro, so I don't mean to comp him (I hate comparisons). What I mean is the type of fantasy season he might produce.

What Wong has done so far has been impressive, no doubt. Since being drafted in the first round in 2011, Wong has played at three different levels, including a jump to Double-A in his first full season and a promotion to Triple-A to start 2013. In his one season at Double-A, Wong produced a .287/.348/.405 as a 21-year old. That's not going to blow you away, but given his age and lack of previous experience, that's a really solid season. Throw in an exceptional 12.8% K% and solid 7.6% BB% and it even looks a little better. Thus far in 2013 (SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT), Wong has looked phenomenal, dropping his K% under 10 (8.3%), though he's also seen a similar drop in BB% down to 4.2%. His slash line on the season is .341/.354/.455, though that comes with the caveat that he's playing in the extremely friendly offensive environs of the Pacific Coast League. In his favor, his home park of Memphis isn't nearly as skewed as some of the other PCL locations. He's not a huge stolen base guy, nabbing 21 in 2012, which isn't bad until you realize he was caught 11 times. He's 2-2 thus far in 2013, but given his history and merely above-average speed, he's not going to net you a ton of value with his legs.

When it comes to tools, here's what I wrote in our Minor League Keeper Thoughts series from December:

Wong isn't a tools guy. He certainly has them as his hit tool borders on plus and he makes hard contact, but doesn't have a frame for power. He's a baseball gamer who shows tons of #want and makes the most, if not more, of what he's got. His arm isn't playable outside of second base and he makes a lot of plays due to positioning and instinct. While he did steal 21 bases, his speed is average to slightly above. He can swipe some bags based on instinct, but might reach a point where better defensive catchers cause him to curtail his attempts.

Now, saying he's not a tools guy was probably too harsh, because he definitely has them. The hit is above-average and might be plus. The run is average, the arm is good enough for 2B and he plays good defense on top of all of it. And everything plays up because of his feel for the game. He's a contact oriented hitter, as demonstrated by his low strikeout percentages.

Wong is the type of prospect that can generate disagreement among evaluators. Keith Law has played cooler to Kevin Goldstein's hype man since Wong was drafted, so there's obviously room for disagreement here. What I find interesting, at least in regards to his fantasy value, is that we can sometimes agree on the type of player he is, while still disagreeing on his value as a prospect. When doing some research for this article, I stumbled upon a twitter conversation I had with former Fake Teams and current Baseball Prospectus fantasy writer, Bret Sayre. Here's a little bit of our convo:

To clarify - When Bret and I say a "50 player" it's a reference to the 20-80 scouting scale, saying that he's more of an average type guy than a difference maker. The whole purpose of including this conversation in this piece is to say that while Bret and I agree on the type of player Wong will end up as, we drastically differ on our valuation of him as a fantasy prospect.

Now, Bret had a good point regarding Scutaro and his value. He was the 9th best 2nd baseman in 2012 (at least according to one rater). That certainly has value. But it is my predilection to value players based on their actual production, hence my reference to Scutaro's OPS+. Not many fantasy leagues use OPS+ so I understand if you find Bret's argument more compelling. For me though, while relative value does matter (Scutaro's ranking relative to other 2B), that general baseline is going to change, while the general production of the player will remain in a reasonable range. I think Scutaro's 9th ranking among second baseman says more about second baseman in 2012 than it does about Scutaro's talents. So while I like Wong as a real live baseball player and would take him on my team in a heartbeat, when it comes to fantasy, a realistic probability of Marco Scutaro-level production (or the general vicinity thereof) doesn't excite me in the slightest. If you like probability and security in your prospects, look no further. I'm more of a risk taker, so Wong is the type of guy I'd sell based on his name value, since his overall stat line likely won't even reach the level of a Neil Walker.

Source Material
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference