Maybe Next Year: Kolten Wong
There aren’t many players who could put up a 153/194/169 line an retain their prospect status, but a career 301/369/466 line in the minor leagues has kept Kolten Wong’s prospect status strong despite his struggles in his introduction to major league pitching.
After starring at the University of Hawaii, including a 378/492/560 line in 2011 (the first year in which BBCOR bats were required, Wong was picked with the 22nd pick of the first round of the 2011 by the St. Louis Cardinals. After signing for $1.3 million, Wong was assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Low-A Midwest League, where he put up a 335/401/510 line across 47 games, playing a solid second base. After the season, Wong was ranked the #93 prospect by Baseball America and #88 by Baseball Prospectus. While his upside was that of an above-average second baseman, his upside was viewed as limited, as he lacked the range for shortstop or the arm for third base, and he had below-average power.
In 2012, Wong was assigned to the Springfield Cardinals of the AA Texas League, where he continued to hit, putting up a 287/348/405 line, displaying solid bat-to-ball ability and a lack of power, as well as solid defensive play. After the season, Wong was rated the #84 prospect by Baseball America, the #90 prospect by Baseball America, and the #79 prospect by MLB.com. The reports were the same, above-average second baseman with a limited upside.
In 2013, Wong’s (limited) power returned, putting up a 303/369/466 line for the Memphis Redbirds of the AAA Pacific Coast League across 107 games before being called up to the Cardinals on August 16. In the majors, Wong struggled, putting up a 153/194/169 line, good for a 3 OPS+ (where 100 is league average, adjusted for year and park effects), a .168 wOBA, and -1 wRC+ (where 100 is league average, adjusted for league and park effects).
So what do we make of Kolten Wong’s potential, both real and in fantasy? I think his value is higher in real life, where he will eventually become a solid real life second baseman and #2 hitter for the Cardinals. While I’m not as bullish on Wong as Ben Carlsey, his fantasy value is also quite high, as a second baseman that hits a relatively empty 300 is a solid late-round position filler who won’t kill you. Additionally, Wong will be surrounded by the consistently solid Cardinals’ lineup, and could score 100 runs with Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras hitting behind him for the next half-decade. His value? Wong looks like a lock for a 270-290 average, few walks, fewer than 30 XBH every year (and he will probably never hit more than 10 home runs), but 80-100 runs like clockwork, 15 stolen bases, and locking down second base for a decade.
Until next time, @HypeProspect.