by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com recently published the following quote from St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak in regards to Kolten Wong (click here for the article):
“I think he has a chance to be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman,” Mozeliak said. “I think a lot of times things that bog him down are the offensive struggles, but I still think he can be an exciting bat and exciting everyday player.”
He’s obviously coming off a highly disappointing season, where he was pulled from his starting role, but with Matt Carpenter expected to open the season as the first baseman St. Louis appears committed to Wong as their starter at second once again. The question now is if Wong can produce more than just defense and if fantasy owners should pinpoint him as a potential buy low candidate.
Obviously we need to look a bit past last season’s struggles, as he lost regular playing time and finished the year hitting .240 with 5 HR and 7 SB. He is still just 26-years old and is just a year removed from much optimism, so writing him off obviously doesn’t seem like a good decision.
He didn’t strikeout a lot last season, at 14.4%, and while his line drive rate was less than stellar (19.9%) we’d still expect better than a .268 BABIP. Prior to 2014 Prospect 361 described his swing/approach by saying:
“While Wong is not a physically imposing player as he stands only 5-foot-9, his weight along with a short compact swing allows him to drive balls with authority. The swing has yet to translate into home run production, but he did slug .466 in the PCL in 412 at-bats. He does have above-average speed and combined with excellent base running skills, translated into 20 stolen bases in Triple-AAA with only one caught stealing.”
He did post a 22.3% line drive rate in the second half, as well as a 31.0% hard hit percentage (22.9% in the first half). As noted in the scouting report, he does have speed (20 SB in the Majors in ’14, 15 in ‘15), and he also has continued to show a good approach at the plate. In other words it seems like nothing has changed in his makeup, it’s more the perception that’s been altered due to the poor numbers.
Granted his approach has yet to deliver a strong average (.248 career hitter), but with contact, line drives and some speed there’s every reason to think that he can at least hit .270 (if not more). Throw in 20+ SB, as speed becomes more and more of a commodity, and the potential to hit 10+ HR with regular AB and there’s a lot to like.
He still profiles as a potential #2 hitter, or maybe towards the bottom of the lineup, which is going to impact his ability for both R/RBI. That said, there’s still reason to believe that he can deliver value at a bargain basement price. Especially in deeper formats, mark him down as a late round flier. How often are you really going to be able to find a potential 10/20 second baseman at literally no cost?
Sources – Fangraphs, Prospect 361