Kolten Wong is going streaking

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

And the Cardinals are going with him.

The leap from the minors to the majors is one of the most fascinating transitions to watch in all of sports. Few ballplayers ever get the opportunity to make the move. Fewer still do so successfully. Of the players who get a call to The Show, there's no way to know who will become a perennial All-Star, who will evolve into a solid big-leaguer, or who will flame out as a bust.

The St. Louis Cardinals attempted to break Kolten Wong into the majors late last season. General manager John Mozeliak made clear that he anticipated a platoon arrangement between Wong, Matt Carpenter, and David Freese—one that would inject speed and defense (two traits Freese sorely lacked) into the lineup. But Wong struggled right out of the gate and manager Mike Matheny, with his team in the midst of the pennant race's home stretch, abandoned the arrangement after about a week. Faced with a choice between an unproven rookie who didn't hit immediately and a battle-tested veteran who was having a down season, Matheny penciled in Freese daily and relegated Wong to bench duty.

During the offseason, with Freese aging and becoming more expensive, Mozeliak traded the 2011 World Series hero (and reliever Fernando Salas) to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk (I'll let you decide which of the two is the parenthetical). The trade marked the end of the Freese era in St. Louis and the beginning of the Wong era.

Or so it seemed. There would be fits and starts, as there so often are for prospects attempting to establish themselves in the majors.

On April 25, Kolten Wong had posted a .225/.276/.268 over 76 plate appearances during the season's start. With the offense as a whole underperforming after a month of baseball, the Cardinals demoted Wong to Triple-A Memphis in order to work on swing mechanics, learn to overcome adversity, or because the team's multi-millionaire veterans weren't hitting, depending on whether you believe Matheny, Mozeliak, or some combination thereof.

After Wong's demotion, St. Louis continued to struggle on offense with Mark Ellis batting .204/.264/.245 in Wong's stead as the primary second baseman. Meanwhile, Wong posted a .344/.382/.484 line during 15 games in Triple-A. Wong had become the offensive jolt the Cardinals had sought when they demoted him, so the club promoted him. And was the Hawaiian ever a jolt upon his return to the big leagues.

In Wong's first 15 games after being recalled to St. Louis, he posted the following numbers:

G

PA

K%

BB%

SB

CS

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

15

65

10.8

7.7

5

1

.347

.316

.391

.439

.829

Wong's two-week hot streak raised his batting line from .225/.276/.268 to .266/.329/.344—a 128-point increase in OPS. This is a good example of why making declarations about a player's true talent based upon 76 PAs is always foolhardy. Even a batting line as low as Wong's will rise to roughly league average with a hot enough two-week streak.

Then Wong's hot streak came to an abrupt end as he jammed his shoulder while making a diving play in the field against the Royals. Wong attempted to tough out the injury, but it was clearly having a negative impact on his game. During the ten games Wong attempted to play through his shoulder injury, he hit for the following line:

G

PA

K%

BB%

SB

CS

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

10

30

6.7

0.0

1

0

.071

.067

.067

.133

.200

While attempting to play through injury, Wong managed to decrease his slash line from .266/.329/.344 to .228/.282/.304. His OPS fell from .672 to .586, or 86 points. Ultimately, the Cardinals placed Wong on the DL.

After a DL and rehab stint, Wong joined the Cardinals a week ago. Since Wong's activation from the DL, he has gone the full Bonds, clubbing five home runs in seven games. Wong's stats since his return from the DL:

G

PA

K%

BB%

SB

CS

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

7

28

14.3

7.1

2

0

.200

.333

.407

1.000

1.407

There are myriad reasons why players succeed or fail when attempting to establish themselves in the majors. Big-league baseball is a game of constant adjustments—both by opposition and player. Health plays a big role. As do streaks. None of Wong's streaks—hot or cold, injured or healthy—mean that he will make it as a major-league starter. But I'm sure going to enjoy the hot streaks while they last.

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