Kolten Wong will be a part of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ future — that much is clear.
Well … mostly, anyway. If you were to look at this first cup of tea in the bigs, however, that future might not be as close as first imagined. Currently languishing as a bench player in what should have been his chance of to make a splash, Wong owns a dismal .149/.184/.170 through 49 PA — small sample to be sure, but one that doesn’t bode well for an upward trend going forward this season.
Instead of being the impact rookie with a strong hit tool and an intriguing power-speed combination, the second baseman is a -0.2 fWAR player for the redbirds, who are in a seesaw battle for the NL Central title. So, let’s just say he hasn’t quite found a way to fit in to be nice here.
That said, could the youngster also be a victim of the Cards’ position in the playoff race down the stretch?
Its something worth thinking about, especially if you consider the relative lack of opportunities he’s been given by St. Louis since being called up in the middle of August. What little noise he made on the team came early, as he managed two- and three-hit performances in his fourth and fifth appearances in the bigs. Though just a flash, it looked like a small building block to build on.
His reward? He didn’t get a start until three games later, and has only started five games since, with three of them being complete appearances.
No, he hasn’t forced the team’s hand with his play, nor was he necessarily called up to be an everyday player over the likes of Matt Carpenter; but with David Freese still struggling with a .222/.275/.347 line over the last month and being a -0.3 fWAR for the Cards over that span, you’d figure Wong might have gotten a few more chances with Carpenter potentially moving over to third for some games.
After all, it’s not as though going from everyday player to being asked to come off the bench is the easiest adjustment to make, and given that many of Wong’s opportunities have been lone at-bats, it’s hard to fault him for not being able to find a groove.
On the other hand, I suppose you can’t really fault the Cardinals either. They’re in a position where constant tweaks to the lineup isn’t going to help their playoff quest, much less some sort of positional battle involving their third baseman. Being a competitive team will do that for them, and while Freese is doing more harm than good these days, they have seen the upside he can bring in the postseason and may not want to jeopardize that.
In short, it’s not really an ideal situation for Wong, who finds himself in a bit of a no-man’s land in his first taste of the bigs — unable to make an impact to get opportunities, and not having enough chances to make an impact.
Will it affect his confidence/development/etc. on his road to be a regular major leaguer? Likely not, but the Cardinals will probably want to have a much more defined role for Wong going into 2014.