Welcome to the bigs (for real), Kolten Wong.
Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals‘ top second base prospect might have actually arrived days ago, but as far as any tangible impact goes, it wasn’t until this week that he officially made what you’d probably call his statement of intent.
After getting his first big league hit in a multi-hit game that also included a pair of steals, the youngster did one better on Tuesday, going 3-for-5 in a night that also included his first extra-base hit and this third stolen base in two games. Sure, it might have come in a losing effort for the team, but the buzz generated was something that the Cardinals heard loud and clear.
And perhaps none more than by David Freese.
If you’re wondering when an incumbent third baseman with 433 games under his belt should worry about his job status being affected by a tiny sample of five hits over 18 PA from a top prospect getting his first shot at the bigs … well, that time is now for Freese.
That’s largely due to the fact that despite the playoff heroics and his emergence as a near-star with a 4.0 fWAR, .889 OPS 2012 season, the 30-year-old has taken a huge step back — and time just isn’t really on his side. Having already suffered a massive power outage that’s seen him post a paltry .264/.342/.381 line this season with six home runs in 404 PA, Freese has also hurt the team with his glove, currently playing defense that’s 13.3 fielding runs below average.
Put that whole package together, and what you have is a replacement-level player whose 0.1 fWAR matches that of the kid at second who’s appeared in five games.
With Matt Carpenter perfectly capable of handling third (19.5 UZR/150 at the position over 192 innings) and hitting much better, it would behoove the Cardinals to put him at third over the struggling Freese (.475 OPS over last two weeks) … if Wong can keep getting these hits to come in bunches, anyway.
That won’t happen immediately, of course, even after the second baseman’s spectacular start to the week.
Still, if Freese was thinking that his spot on the team was pretty secure given his past performance, and that it would be the newcomer who’d have to find playing time … well, let’s just say that could change very quickly.