It came as a surprise to some St. Louis Cardinals fans when highly-touted second base prospect Kolten Wong was optioned to triple-A Memphis late last month. It should be no surprise to fans that the team is thinking of bringing him back. The Cardinals should make good on those thoughts.
Wong didn’t exactly shine on the St. Louis stage in his first go-round with the parent club. Many fans remember Wong being picked off first base, a boneheaded move that cost the Cardinals a chance to win Game 4 of the 2013 World Series.
Wong batted .153 in St. Louis during his first stint with the team, and even though his bat was largely absent during that September callup, he still played well enough to earn a second cup of coffee with the Cardinals. His average was 72 points higher than in 2013, but it still wasn’t good enough to keep him on the major league roster. Wong was sent to Memphis to regain his stroke, and regain it he has.
Wong, who is only 23 years old, hit .303 with Memphis in 2013. He currently has a .327 average at Memphis, but he doesn’t have the limited home run power that he did when 10 home runs came off his bat at triple-A last season. What he does have is the desire to learn, and Wong may have gone as far as he can go in triple-A.
Let’s face it: many of the Cardinals are in extended hitting slumps right now, and Wong may have been the scapegoat. As rumors circulate that the Cardinals may be trying to shake things up by making a major play for Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, the feeling is that no one on the roster may be safe except for a handful of pitchers and notable hitters like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.
Wong is only 23. He still has plenty of time to show off the skills that made him a highly-touted prospect, one of the best in the organization. The general consensus is if a prospect doesn’t have a fine season by the time he is 27, then that prospect may be over the hill. That isn’t the case with Wong, who has shown a desire to get better by hitting for a high average during his Memphis stint.
Mark Ellis, whom the Cardinals signed in the offseason to push Wong at second, is no more than a journeyman major leaguer. He will give you a decent amount of range on defense, but what he won’t give you is a bat. Although Ellis hit .270 with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, Ellis only has a .185 mark in St. Louis.
It may not be time to give up on Ellis, but the time may have come to limit his playing time. This is best done by bringing Wong up to stay. After a certain amount of time, the only learning a player can do is at the big league level. It’s about time Wong got to enjoy a full season’s worth of caffeine in the bigs instead of the proverbial cup of java.