St. Louis Cardinals: Should Kolten Wong Be Moved Up In the Lineup?

Apr 27, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) dives to slide in for a triple during the eleventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) dives to slide in for a triple during the eleventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Heading into the final weekend of the April, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Kolten Wong is riding a hot streak that has solidified himself as the team’s regular second baseman during the season’s first month.

Since being called up for his big-league debut late in the 2013 season, Kolten Wong has been a lightning rod of controversy for the St. Louis Cardinals. The former first round pick was infamously picked off of first base to end a World Series game in 2013, and saw minor-league stints mixed in with regular playing time at the big league level the following three seasons.

During those three years, he displayed flashes of brilliance at the plate and in the field. Before the 2016 season, he inked a five year extension with the team. That contract came along with the affirmation that he would be the man at second base in St. Louis for the foreseeable future.

In the short term, it hasn’t all worked out that way. He struggled out of the gate last season, and was eventually sent to Triple-A Memphis to get his swing back on track with regular at-bats. He made it back, and ended the season with a .240 batting average on the year in the big leagues.

The saga continued during Spring Training earlier this year. He struggled at the plate in the Grapefruit League, and towards the end of camp, manager Mike Matheny entertained the possibility of opening the season with a platoon approach at second base.

That didn’t sit kindly with Wong. He even suggested he’d rather be traded than waste his time wondering if he’d be in the St. Louis lineup each time he arrived at the ballpark on a given day.

To begin the season, he started just seven of the team’s first twelve games. His batting average sat at an abysmal .148 while the Cardinals sat at the cellar of the division with a 3-9 record.

Since being swept by the Yankees, the Cardinals are on the rebound, winning nine of their next eleven games. Contributing to recovery is an uptick in the offense, sparked in part by none other than Kolten Wong.

The Cardinals’ streak began with a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wong’s first at-bat of that series was a solo home run. Since then, he’s taken off.

He started every one of the Cardinals’ last eleven games at second base. During that time, he went 12-for-35 at the plate, good for a .343 average. That’s raised his average on the season to .258. His on-base percentage for the year is .370, second only to Jedd Gyorko on the team among players with at least 60 plate appearances.

His six doubles are tied with Randal Grichuk for the team lead. His two triples lead the team in that category, and his nine extra-base hits are tied with Grichuk and Gyorko for best on the club to begin the year.

Wong’s approach at the plate works well with his skill set. He’s driving balls down the lines and into the gaps, allowing his speed to collect the extra-base hits. He’s also shown the ability to drop down a bunt and beat it out for a base hit, particularly down the first base line.

More from St Louis Cardinals News

Once he’s on the bases, however, it hasn’t been so easy. He’s been caught stealing and picked off, something that shouldn’t happen very often given his speed. In the field, he’s already committed four errors. That must improve, especially since he’s owned all of the team’s innings at second base recently.

Wong is usually hitting eighth in the Cardinals’ lineup. If he continues to produce offensively, Matheny may want to think about moving him up in the order. The top of the Cardinals’ lineup, which features Dexter Fowler, Aledmys Diaz, and Matt Carpenter, has had their fair share of struggles to begin the season, although Fowler and Carpenter have turned it up along with Wong recently.

If Diaz continues to struggle, the second spot in the lineup may be a good place for Wong. Matheny has been forced to mix and match the 4-5-6 spots in the order to begin the year anyways, so Diaz could easily slide into one of those run-producing spots.

Last season, it was Diaz stuck in the eight hole in the lineup for a good time even while he was the team’s hottest hitter. Eventually, Matheny promoted him to second. A similar move might be in the future for Wong.

Diaz has never hit in the middle of the lineup save for a couple of games last year since making his debut. With Stephen Piscotty‘s and Randal Grichuk’s inconsistencies to begin the year, it wouldn’t hurt to plug the second-year shortstop in the five or six hole and see what he can do with it.

Next: A Look At the Remaining April Schedule

Wong’s nine runs batted in at the beginning of the season are behind only Grichuk, Carpenter, and Piscotty. What’s more is he’s done it from the bottom of the order. Wherever he hits, he’ll look to continue to ride the hot streak he’s on and become a bigger and bigger part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ offense.