Don’t look now, but Kolten Wong has been hitting since his recall from the minor leagues. That has to make the St. Louis Cardinals very happy.
Wong was a heralded September call-up last season as the Cardinals advanced to the World Series, but once he got to the big leagues his bat was left behind at Triple-A Memphis. Then there was the pickoff play that cost the Cardinals a chance to rally in the fourth game of the World Series.
That baggage may have carried over a bit to this season. Wong got off to a slow start and was sent back to Memphis to retrieve his bat. It looks like the Cardinals’ plan worked out. Since his recall from the minors on May 14, Wong has hit safely in every game he has played. That includes a two-hit outing on Monday in the team’s game against the New York Yankees.
What is the secret to Wong’s success? It may have to do with what he isn’t doing anymore. Wong told reporters that he kicked his leg a bit too much at the plate when swinging, both last season and in 2014. It was only when he got back to Memphis and began to look at film that he realized the error. Once Wong corrected the leg kick, he hit .344 in 15 games at Memphis with five stolen bases, 10 runs batted in and 15 runs scored.
This, the Cardinals told everyone, was the Wong that enthralled the coaching staff for the past couple seasons. It looks like Wong may be in the majors to stay if this keeps up.
Does this approach work with everybody? Not everyone benefits from extra lessons. Look at Kansas City Royals‘ third baseman Mike Moustakas, who worked in the offseason with coaches and looked like he had licked his hitting woes. Anyone who has seen Moustakas this season knows he also forgot his bat. Maybe Moustakas will find it in Triple-A Omaha.
Back across the state of Missouri in St. Louis, Wong looks like he will be the hitter the Cardinals wanted to bring up all along. Wong isn’t a home-run hitter, but he is fast on the bases and projects as a higher-average singles and doubles batter. That will help the Cardinals offense in the long run to have a mix of power and speed to go with its vaunted pitching staff.
Wong has hit safely in eight games so far since his recall. Time will tell if this is a long hitting streak or if Wong is just plain streaky.