St. Louis Cardinals: Wong seems poised for breakout year
St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong has been on fire to start the season, and there is a real possibility this will be the year he takes another step.
Kolten Wong has been the most dangerous hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals for the first six games, and with his defensive skills and respectable speed, Wong could be developing into an all-around threat.
Wong is hitting .476 to begin the season, and is leading the team with 10 hits in 21 at-bats. He has hit safely in the first six games of the season and has also struck out only five times, which is a drastic contrast to the whiffing ways of the rest of the team. And with three home runs already, he could be experiencing a power spike as well.
Wong has been a streaky hitter throughout his career, and we have seen him have phases like this before, only for them to be followed by ice-cold stretches at the plate. But Wong didn’t just start hitting this year. While his batting average in 2018 was .249, he hit .319 from July 1 to the end of the season. If this just a streak, it is certainly a long one.
Wong has also shone with his defense, which was a noticeable improvement in 2018. As one of the premier defenders at the keystone, Wong has nothing left to prove on that side of the ball. It is very possible that whatever helped him make such significant gains in his defense last year is also helping him find success at the plate.
Many St. Louis Cardinals fans were of the opinion that Wong deserved a Gold Glove award for his defense in 2018. He performed better than NL winner D.J. LeMahieu in defensive runs saved, a stat in which he led the league. But because his offense was only adequate, he didn’t get the national attention of LeMahieu. So, a better offensive season could lead to a Gold Glove award if his defense remains exceptional.
In prior years, Wong was prone to letting his miscues get to him, causing them to hurt his performance. It looks as if he has conquered those demons, and his confidence seems sky-high. Much of this could do with manager Mike Shildt, who is providing Wong with opportunities and has stated his belief in Wong.
Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny‘s shenanigans with playing Wong in the outfield could have affected Wong’s confidence and morale. With Wong’s propensity at the time to let mistakes affect him negatively, it is certainly feasible that under a new manager who has professed his confidence in Wong, he could be blossoming.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
Wong also hasn’t shown off his speed as much as he could. The Cardinals don’t steal often, but Wong, who swiped 20 bags in 2014 and 15 in 2015, hasn’t come close to those totals since, which Wong attributed to not receiving the green light from Matheny, according to an article on STL Today. If Shildt lets Wong run, he could show even more value.
Of course, to continue excelling and to have a career year, Wong needs to stay healthy, which he has had trouble with in the past three seasons. If he can stay on the field all season, he could easily set personal records with his performance.
At age 28, Wong might be a bit of a late bloomer. The Cardinals have had their share of those, with Tommy Pham as one example. No two players have identical career arcs, but many players are at their peaks at this age, meaning a career year is in the realm of possibility.
Second basemen are rarely the best players on their teams. The shortstop is typically a better fielder, and the corner infielders are usually the better hitters. But if Wong keeps this performance up, he could be one of the top second basemen in the league and a truly special player for the St. Louis Cardinals.