St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong has made tremendous strides in 2017

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Kolten Wong
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Kolten Wong /

Six years after the St. Louis Cardinals selected Kolten Wong 22nd overall he has become the player they wanted him to be.

St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong has taken a ton of criticism over his five years in the majors. During the offseason there was legitimate talks of trading Wong and there was a good amount of fans who supported the idea.

72 games later, Kolten Wong is having his breakout season. Throughout his career Wong has wanted to bat lead-off for the Cardinals. Unfortunately for Wong, first baseman Matt Carpenter has that spot locked down for the foreseeable future.

So far in 2017 Wong has a slash line of .296/.383/.422 and a wRC+ of 108, which would all be career highs for the 26-year-old. For years Wong has been swinging to generate power, but this season Wong has been focusing on contact and being more selective at the plate.

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Exponential growth has been shown in pitch selection, especially in two strike counts. Last season Wong was susceptible to pitches up, low middle, low and in, and outside on two strike counts. This season, Wong has learned to lay off the low and in pitches and has done a better job at avoiding balls up and in.

With being more selective in two strike counts comes better numbers in those counts. Wong’s numbers in two strike counts surpass his previous seasons combined by light years. Using Fangraphs, I was able to get Wong’s slash line in two strike counts from 2013-2016 and comparing those numbers to this season.

Another key to Kolten Wong’s 2017 success has been hitting left-handed pitching. From 2013-2016 Wong hit just .246 against southpaws, but this season he is hitting .318 against them. This is a big step for Wong because leading up to this season he has been thought of as a platoon player, but now Wong has made himself a must start against left-handers.

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All Wong needs to do is become less of a liability in the field plus getting back a bit of his home run power and he can be the all-around player the Cardinals were hoping he would be. As for now, Kolten Wong has been a pleasant surprise during an up and down 2017 season and he should keep it up.