Exit Interview: Kolten Wong

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Kolten Wong

Season stats:  113 games, 433 PA, 52 R, 14 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 20 SB, 21 BB, 71 K, .249/.292/.388  89 OPS+

Hero/Goat: Hero 8, Goat 8

Overall grade: B

Positives: Finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting….hit .254 after spending two weeks in Memphis, allowing him to triumph over adversity….showed he could hit lefties by posting a .315/.324/.466 line against them….hit three home runs in the postseason, including a walk-off job in Game 2 of the NLCS.

Negatives: Struggled against righties, hitting just .234 against them….had trouble drawing walks, taking just nine free passes in the second half against 48 strikeouts….hit .103 in June in 12 games (10 starts)….hit just .229 (though with two home runs) in 77 high-leverage plate appearances.

Overview: Prospects don’t always make it to the major leagues fully formed.  For every Bryce Harper or Michael Wacha, there are a number of others who need to make adjustments, who need to see pitchers a few times before they get the hang of the game at the highest level.  We tend to expect them to be good immediately, but that doesn’t always happen.

That seems to be the case with Wong.  A .300-type hitter in the minors, Wong had stretches where he looked like he had things figured out, only to go through slumps like the one he had in June.  The consistency is not there, but the flashes of talent make you think that it’s coming and when it does, it’s going to be a lot of fun.  The quickness in his bat, so obvious in those postseason blasts, is going to keep pitchers honest and his speed–his 20 steals were 11 more than anyone else on the team, was double what led the team in 2013, and was the first time a Cardinal reached 20 since Cesar Izturis did it in 2008–can be a huge weapon for St. Louis if they are able to harness it.

Wong’s going to have to get on base more–an OBP under .300 isn’t really going to get it done–but if he can, he could be a fixture in the Cardinal lineup for a long time to come.

Outlook: Wong’s seen the last of Memphis, unless he needs some sort of rehab stint.  With Mark Ellis gone and no obvious person behind him to take time away from him, Wong should be relaxed and out there just about every day in 2015.  That’s one less decision Matheny should be making, which will make a lot of Twitter fans quite happy.

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