We've already begun our encompassing look at the second base position with the release of our consensus top 30 first basemen for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 first base prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season. Next up is our look at Cardinals' second base prospect Kolten Wong.
Weight: 185 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes
Options Remaining: 3
DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age 23 Season)
Wong attended Kamehameha HS in Honolulu, and attended the University of Hawaii after being taken in the 16th round by the Twins in 2008. After an excellent college career in which he hit .358/.450/.563 with 25 home runs and 53 stolen bases, Wong was selected by the Cardinals with the 22nd overall pick of the 2011 draft. He signed for a bonus of $1.3 million, and was able to play in 47 games at Low-A Quad Cities that year, hitting .335/.401/.510 with five home runs and nine stolen bases.
Wong was promoted directly to AA for the 2012 season, and had a very solid season, hitting .287/.348/.405 with nine home runs and 21 stolen bases. The thing that really sticks out from that season was his rate stats, as he struck out just 12.8% of the time and nearly matched that with a walk rate just under 8%. The Cardinals sent him to AAA Memphis to start the 2013 season, and after hitting .303 with 10 home runs in 103 games, he was added to the 40-man roster and promoted to the Majors. He appeared in 32 games down the stretch, and played in seven games across the Cardinals' postseason run.
The Scouting Report
I wrote up Wong in January when I ranked him as the #3 fantasy prospect in the Cardinals' system, and had this to say then:
His main value to fantasy owners will come from his batting average (expected to be in the .285-.300 range on a consistent basis), and from his potential for stolen bases (potentially 20+ per season), while also providing more than token power in the 5-10 home run range. He also should provide owners in points and OBP leagues with slightly more value than expected, as he consistently posts solid contact rates while avoiding strikeouts as well. He is one of those players that doesn't necessarily do anything great, but does nearly everything at least solidly.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
Wong is expected to be the starting second baseman for the Cardinals in 2014, after the team moved last year's starter, Matt Carpenter, to his natural third base to replace the traded David Freese. The team did go out and sign free agent Mark Ellis, but he is expected to fill more of a backup/occasional starter role than an everyday player.
When Could He Arrive?
He will be in the Majors this year, and barring an extremely poor spring or injury, will slot into the Opening Day lineup. I would expect him to play in 115-120 games, with the potential for more if he performs well.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
I like Wong to be a source of batting average, hitting above .280, stealing 15-20 bases, and providing decent production in the remaining categories. The key limitation in my opinion are his playing time (specifically how much time Ellis plays), and whether he experiences a slight drop off due to his lineup position.
Our consensus rankings have Wong as our #21 second baseman, which will likely lead him to be undrafted in many shallower leagues. He's not going to do anything spectacular, but he should be a solid provider for an MI spot, with a little more upside than some of the other players surrounding him in the ranks. I do think I would have him higher if I believed he would play in closer to 140-150 games.
For More on the Cardinals and Minors
Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball