St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong vs. Breyvic Valera

Apr 10, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) fields a ground ball to end the inning against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) fields a ground ball to end the inning against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Prior to the 2016 season, the St. Louis Cardinals provided their young second baseman a lengthy extension but someone new is knocking on the door.  Does this mean that his time is running out?

The St. Louis Cardinals awarded Kolten Wong with a five-year extension at the start of the 2016 season worth $25.5MM.  This was an indication of the belief that the organization held in the young second baseman.  Then, the wheels fell off and manager Mike Matheny did not provide playing time to Wong.

In defense of this decision, Wong did go into a strong slump in the 2016 season.  Rest is often a solution to a slump but only if regular playing time follows the rest.  This was not the case with Wong in 2016.

To address this, the organization send Wong to Memphis to learn to hit again and to learn a new position.  In Memphis, Wong found his bat once more and learned to play center field as the organization was working to find a way to keep value in their extension.  Could Wong solve the slumping center field that befell the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals?

This question would go somewhat unanswered as Matheny again refused to offer regular enough playing time to provide time to answer the said question.  Oh, and there was that one time when Wong face-planted in left field…

All of this is to say that 2017 could be a crossroads for Kolten: will Matheny play him regularly at second base, will Matheny experiment with him in the outfield, or will he maintain his slump thanks to irregular playing time?  These questions are all made even more complicated by the addition to the 40-man roster in the form of Breyvic Valera.

Let’s take a moment to compare these two youngsters; Wong is twenty-six and Valera is twenty-four.  These are Wong’s career offensive numbers:

201120Quad CitiesA471943965152525952124.335.401.510.911
MLB (4 seasons)MLB4161331168330501428126451294230.248.309.370.678
Minors (5 seasons)Minors30512322123796317311465717115173.308.371.462.833
All Levels (6 Seasons)7382637392733115316028410732211414.278.339.413.752
AAA (3 seasons)Minors1325159416425917692715075.318.383.501.884

While it is not an exact apples-to-apples comparison, these are Valera’s career offensive numbers:

2011192 TeamsRk471833957931211461526.311.368.410.777
201119Johnson CityRk1973162941087559.397.430.479.910
2012202 TeamsA–AA7228741901841341061827.314.356.415.771
2014222 TeamsA+-AA1325216616316605717154035.313.361.367.728
201422Palm BeachA+7329435988403713102513.333.385.388.773
2015232 TeamsAA-A+11941146103123338274529.251.323.316.640
201523Palm BeachA+1451918310703112.353.468.451.919
2016242 TeamsAAA-AA125395481201920431154040.304.363.362.725
Minors (7 seasons)Minors68325243517611083062637749222202.302.358.375.733
Foreign (4 seasons)Foreign14450976148201124918205339.291.357.385.742
All Levels (7 Seasons)83930724329221294183179871280244.300.358.377.735
Rk (1 season)Minors471833957931211461526.311.368.410.777
A+ (2 seasons)Minors873454411611504413133615.336.398.397.796
AA (4 seasons)Minors219770861972253649105867.256.306.309.615

Anyone other than me notice the similarities?  To add insult to injury (against Wong, in favor of Valera), Valera has batted .379/.440/.634 in the Venezuelan league this winter.  In these he has smashed nine doubles, five triples, six home runs, and has accounted for twenty RBI.

Of even more important note to the St. Louis Cardinals is Valera’s speed.  In winter ball, Breyvic has stolen eight bases and been caught stealing five times.  Even the caught stealing is an improvement for a 2016 St. Louis Cardinals team that was stagnant on the base pads.

Let’s take a look at Wong vs. Valera defensively.  These are Wong’s defensive numbers (abbreviated to show 2016 only plus aggregates):

MLB (4 seasons)MLB2B3602912.0168166298237252.9785.084.57
Minors (5 seasons)Minors2B2932522.2150059086941202.9735.214.98
All Levels (6 Seasons)2B6705434.231811252185178454
All Levels (1 Season)CF1190.020191001.0002.001.82
All Levels (1 Season)OF19134.030291001.0002.011.58

These are Breyvic’s defensive numbers (abbreviated to show 2016 only plus aggregates):

2016242 Teams2 LgsAAA-AASTL2B47328.018682101330.9845.023.89
2016242 Teams2 LgsAAA-AASTLLF854.0660001.0001.000.75
2016242 Teams2 LgsAA-AAASTLOF23165.030300001.0001.641.30
2016242 Teams2 LgsAA-AAASTLSS41283.115645102916.9424.673.59
Minors (7 seasons)Minors2B3663033.2167167395642244.9754.834.45
Minors (7 seasons)Minors3B63428.214840100812.9462.942.22
Minors (3 seasons)MinorsCF1054.01413010.9292.171.30
Minors (7 seasons)MinorsLF85708.2140127851.9641.711.59
Minors (1 season)MinorsOF23165.030300001.0001.641.30
Minors (3 seasons)MinorsRF29239.246415001.0001.731.59
Minors (7 seasons)MinorsSS121924.15071493243458.9334.613.91
Foreign (3 seasons)Foreign2B32173.21214475226.9836.123.72
Foreign (3 seasons)ForeignCF46242.210494642.9622.602.17
Foreign (2 seasons)ForeignLF5046.19083522.9781.751.76
Foreign (2 seasons)ForeignRF520.086110.8753.151.40
Foreign (2 seasons)ForeignSS639.038112346
All Levels (7 Seasons)2B4053259.11828733105144277.9764.924.40
All Levels (7 Seasons)3B90648.2228581581218.9473.002.40
All Levels (5 Seasons)CF56296.2118107652.9582.522.02
All Levels (7 Seasons)LF135755.02302101373.9701.721.65
All Levels (1 Season)OF23165.030300001.0001.641.30
All Levels (3 Seasons)RF34259.25447610.9811.841.56
All Levels (7 Seasons)SS127963.15451603473864

The similarities continue but Valera shows a wider range of abilities and utilities.

These are the questions that surround these two players for me:

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  • Is one more valuable than the other?  It certainly appears that Valera may hold greater worth and at much less a cost.  That said, Wong is MLB-proven-ready and that carries greater worth to other teams.  Monetarily speaking, Wong is owed $2.5M in 2017 while Valera is under a minor league contract at the league minimum.
  • Should the St. Louis Cardinals shop Wong then and keep Valera as their second baseman?  I believe that this would be a little premature at this point.  Having said that, though, it would not surprise me to see Valera climb to the majors by the trade deadline after (1) he has showed his abilities in Memphis for the first half, and (2) after Wong has increased his value in the first half.
  • Which of these two will be the second baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018? If I had to choose only one of these two, I would more likely lean toward Valera serving in this role.  Having said that, however, I’m not sold that Valera is a “true” second baseman but might hold more worth as a super utility guy.

All of these questions aside, you must admit that the stats are eerily similar and that this might well spell the end of tenure for Kolten Wong.  I would not be sad if the ilk of Valera were to replace the ilk of Wong.

Next: Roster Prediction Before Winter Meetings

I love watching the Memphis Redbirds play and knowing that a rising star such as Breyvic Valera, now protected on the 40-man roster, will play for his chance to break into the majors makes me even more excited for 2017.  Come on, Spring!