It’s been a month and a half since James published his pick profile on Tyler Beede so we’ve definitely let this series sit on the back burner for a while now. Of course if you are a regular reader of this site you know we’ve been working in other ways adding some regular and semi-regular features (Harvesting Opinion, Breaking Through, Sprouts, and Minor Connections to name a few) to the mix in the last 2 months. Each of us are also slowly finding our comfort zone with our style of coverage and general types of content. The world of the minor leagues is vast, and at times daunting, and it has taken us some time to settle in.
If you have “liked” the Seedlings to Stars Facebook page you have probably also noticed that each day I select a hitter and pitcher of the day and give their stat lines for the previous night’s games. That is another regular thing that we plan on doing long term, so we’re not just content to write and publish what we hope you will consider to be “time-worthy” content. Of course I’m getting off track here so without further delay we restart our 1st round pick profiles right where we left off … with the St Louis Cardinals selection of Kolten Wong.
As Kolten transitions from the Rainbows to the Cardinals what have we seen and what can we expect? I’ll dive into that after the jump.
At 5’9″ and 190 lbs the first thing people are drawn to with Kolten is his small stature, and it is simply because of his size that scouts were slow to embrace the talented 2B. Fortunately players like Dustin Pedroia (5’9″ 180) and rookies Jose Altuve (5’7″, 170) and Johnny Giavotella (5’8″, 185) are doing a lot to shatter the notions of how a 2B should look and that certainly works to Kolten’s advantage. Outside of his stature, Wong has all the makings to be a excellent hitter at the major league level. He combines a short, efficient swing with a willingness to hit to all fields. He further augments that with a professional approach and patience at the plate. When Kolten Wong steps into the batter’s box, he has a plan of attack and an understanding of the circumstances surrounding each at bat. He’s the epitome of a guy who’s tools play up because of his intelligence, work ethic, and willingness to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
That’s the type of thing you will typically come across when you are reading about a player with substandard tools. The guy in the David Eckstein mold that plays above his ability and maximizes every little ounce of talent he possesses. It’s what makes Kolten Wong so special in my book because he doesn’t have substandard tools. He has a well above average bat and – despite being just 5’9″ – enough pop in his bat to comfortably hit 15-20 home runs in a season. His speed is a solid average tool and he is no slouch on defense either. His plate discipline is excellent and should allow him to avoid prolonged slumps at any level.
The Stats (College)
2009: 226 AB, 0.341/.418/.597, 21 2B, 11 HR, 25 BB, 23 SO
2010: 249 AB, 0.357/.436/.534, 15 2B, 7 HR, 36 BB, 20 SO
2011: 209 AB, 0.378/.500*/.560, 11 2B, 7 HR, 42 BB, 20 SO
*2011 OBP may be off slightly due to incomplete statistical data from the University of Hawaii’s website
Wong was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 16th round of the 2008 draft and I was hoping he’d fall to them again at #30 this year. He put that possibility out of the question with the type of season he had. While offense across college baseball was down – thanks to the changes in the bats used – Wong continued to hit and improve and that only served to fuel the increase in prospect buzz around him.
Prior to the surge in interest, Kolten had some ardent supporters in scouting circles including John Klima of Baseball Prospect Report (formerly Baseball Beginnings). You can click here for some of his thoughts as well as some video and other great content. I was a fan of Wong before reading Klima’s thoughts, but his opinion and the work of others further sold me on this young man.
I am a big believer in production over measurables but I am an even bigger fan of draft picks who elect to sign early so they can get their careers underway. Needless to say when Wong signed on June 25th for $1.3 million his stock soared even higher in my book.
Just two days after signing his deal, he was in the lineup as a member of the Quad Cities River Bandits (A) and went 2-2 with a BB and HBP in his first game. He’s been hitting ever since and now has a 0.327/.386/.500 slash line in 168 AB. He’s also shown a good deal of extra-base pop early on with 13 2B, 2 3B and 4 HR in 40 games. Of course, his trademark plate discipline has also been on full display as he’s drawn 16 walks while only striking out 21 times.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to kick start a professional career and at just 20 years old he’s got plenty of time to get even better.