The Cardinals selected 2B Kolten Wong with the 22nd pick yesterday in the 2011 draft. It seems the reviews are mixed, and I think both sides have good points. Basically, if Wong doesn’t hit the ball and do it quickly, this pick will be a bust. The Cardinals didn’t really reach for Wong, but they probably passed up an opportunity to take a high upside pitcher to go along with Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez.
What the Cardinals did do was try to fill a need in a position that has been less than stellar for quite a while now at second base. It looks like the Cardinals feel that Wong will be able to make an impact at the end of the 2013 season in a worst case scenario.
Peter Gammons threw the name Carlos Baerga out there as the player that Wong has a chance to be in his opinion as an upside. After that, a lot of things were said and put up on the screen that left some fans excited and others wanting more. Some of those were scrappy, a winner, a gamer, good baseball instincts, etc. At 5’9” and 180 pounds, it’s easy to see the doubt. However, let’s look at a couple of the things that made Wong stand out to the Cardinals.
One of the first things to note is that Wong was the MVP of Cape League in 2010, hitting .341 with a .426 OBP and stole 22 bases for the Orleans Firebirds in 2010. It was an important accomplishment because Wong decided to play in the Cape League instead of the Team USA, and his hitting success transferred easily using a wood bat. Some other notable winners of the Cape League MVP include Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Jason Varitek.
This year in college baseball, the offensive stats were down for a lot of players a bit because of the change in bats used. While the new bats were not wood, they did have less pop in them. While a lot of players struggled, Wong did not. His averaged climbed from .357 as a sophomore to .378 as a junior. A few scouts have labeled Wong as the best or second best pure hitter in the draft.
In a preseason questionnaire to college coaches in the WAC, here are some questions and answers that involve Wong:
Rank the three biggest power threats: Jordan Ribera, Fresno State; Kolten Wong, Hawaii; Mark Threlkeld, Louisiana Tech
Who is the best pure hitter: Kolten Wong
The hitter you least want to face: Kolten Wong
The toughest hitter to strike out: Kolten Wong
The best base runner is: Kolten Wong
I’m not sure how much stock you can put into that, but it seems with the level of competition that Wong had he was thought of as one of the elite players by other coaches, which has to mean a little something. I doubt I’ll ever be talking about Wong and his great WAR or OPS, but who knows?
All of the mock drafts I looked at had Wong anywhere from 17th to 44th, so I’m not sure how much of a reach Wong really was. If Wong can continue to hit, he should arrive in St. Louis sooner than most other draft picks would have. It appears Wong is eager to sign early and get in some pro ball as soon as he can. Let’s just hope the Cardinals chose a player that is going to be a starter and didn’t waste a 1st round pick on a utility infielder.