For the Cardinals, this offseason has been largely focused on adding an impact bat. The acquisition of Ozuna checked that box and shored up the outfield. The next quest was to improve the pitching staff. Miles Mikolas was added to the roster, becoming the fifth starter and a de facto insurance policy on Adam Wainwright. The outfield was changed again, albeit slightly, with the subtractions of Piscotty and Grichuk, but the bullpen was strengthened as a result.
There has even been talk about corner infield positions—Longoria, Donaldson, and Hosmer’s names have all been tossed around, but to no avail. Carpenter is reportedly preparing to play multiple positions. Furthermore, even the catcher position has been discussed. How much playing time will Carson Kelly get this year? Although, Matheny pledged to start whoever gives the team the best chance to win on a given day, essentially refusing to schedule time off for Molina, Kelly is waiting in the wings for Molina’s now announced retirement.
A world in which Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong are constants up the middle is new and potentially problematic, especially considering DeJong will only be a second year player, susceptible to the proverbial sophomore slump. Can Kolten Wong be relied upon?
Kolten Wong had a career year in 2017. A noticeable change in his approach was his willingness to take what was given to him by opposing pitchers.
Ignoring 2013, which was an extremely small sample size, Wong has been a predominantly pull hitter. While many have a pull% higher than Wong, what is noticeable is the decrease in pull% and the increase in oppo%, specifically from 2016 to 2017. This shows a maturing hitter, willing to exercise control by not attempting to do too much.
His patience has grown as well. Wong’s BB% has increased each year, finally surpassing the MLB average in 2016 and improving further this past season.
These developments are both good, however, it is difficult not to notice his diminished power production. In 2014, he hit 12 home runs in just 113 games—on pace for 17 home runs over a full season. Not a mind-boggling number, but excellent power production from a second baseman nonetheless. In 2016 and 2017 combined, he has only cleared the fence nine times. Still, it is unfair to say his power has declined significantly.
In 2014, Wong’s power numbers far exceeded that of a second basemen. So much so, in fact, that his ISO surpassed the MLB average. Since then, it has declined, but not by much. In 2014, his ISO was .139. By 2017, it fell to .127. A decrease, yes, but not a significant one. Although the home run numbers are not there, Wong is still driving the ball.
It would be an oversight not to discuss perhaps the most significant statistical development in his game in 2017: the increase in on-base percentage. At .376, Wong’s OBP ranked 3rd among all second basemen with a minimum of 400 plate appearances—an elite number.
Kolten Wong was a first round draft pick in 2011. In 2013, he made his MLB debut. Few will forget the young second baseman getting picked off to end a World Series game against the Red Sox. Wong’s career is one of slow development. Now, it is logical to say that he has earned the right to be one of the few constants on the Cardinals roster heading in to 2018, not due to projections or scouting reports, but due to his on the field performance.