Exit Interview: Kolten Wong

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Cubs Cards Cast.  No doubt it’s been tough for Dan, a Cards fan in Chicago, to talk with John, a Cubs fan in St. Louis, this season but they always are able to discuss both teams with only good-natured ribbing.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Kolten Wong

Season stats: 121 games, 313 PA, 39 R, 7 2B, 7 3B, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 34 BB, 52 K, .240/.327/.355, 83 OPS+, 1.5 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 6

Overall grade: C

Positives: Hit .268 on the road….July was his best month, with a .814 OPS….had an .851 OPS coming off the bench….hit .400 with five extra-base hits as a pinch-hitter….hit .667 with a 1.714 OPS in the first at-bat of the seven games he led off….had a 1.131 OPS when he led off an inning….hit .313 on the first pitch….hit .556 on a 2-0 count, but only had nine plate appearances that ended with that count….hit .313 with nobody out in a frame….hit .304 in medium leverage situations….hit .308 in the first inning….hit .429 with four homers in his seven game stint in Memphis mid-season….had a .717 OPS against starting pitchers….hit four of his five homers at night….hit .409 with three homers in the six games after his Rob Rains interview came out….most defensive metrics placed him above average at second.

Negatives: After signing a five-year contract during the spring, stumbled out of the gate hitting .226/.306/.226….if the contract was supposed to assure him to be the starting second baseman, the fact that he only started 14 of 24 games the first month may have undermined that….hit .219 as a second baseman….had a .554 OPS when batting first….hit .170 with two strikes on him….hit just .165 with two outs….had a .475 OPS with runners in scoring position….hit .067 with two outs and RISP….hit .164 in high-leverage situations….hit .178 against the Cubs.

Overview: Whither Kolten Wong?  There’s a school of thought that says leave him out there, let him play everyday, and things will turn around.  After all, that seemed to work for Randal Grichuk, at least in part, right?  As I mentioned earlier in the season, though, I still remember those phrases being used for Tyler Greene as well.  Spoilers–Tyler Greene actually wasn’t that good.  There’s no doubt Wong has talent, but whether he can tap into it to be an All-Star second baseman, like some of us have thought he could be, is iffy.  Of course, not getting that consistent playing time can affect a person, especially someone like Kolten, who has always been emotional and passionate.

Most anything that I could say about Wong I said in the post right after the Rains interview.  Matheny probably needs to let Wong play more, but Kolten has also got to embrace those opportunities and step up, making it difficult or even impossible to jerk him around in the lineup.  2015 was Kolten’s best year and it was also the only year he’s gotten over 440 at bats.  Let him play and if we are still having this discussion after next season, then changes probably should be made.

Outlook: With the emphasis on defense and baserunning, Wong seems to be in line for a more regular turn at second next season.  (Wong went 7-for-7 in steals and those seven swipes tied for the team lead with Stephen Piscotty.)  The idea seems to be to have less moving around next season, which hopefully will benefit Wong and let him blossom into the player we think he can be.

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