Kolten Wong is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a Hawaiian arm-sleeve. You hold him up to any section of the Cardinal fan base, and what you are really using is a mirror to reflect that fans internal 00k to them. Part of this might be the hype Kolten came up with. Derrick Goold predicts he will be an all-star pretty much every year. He was a first round draft pick. The reason I was so excited for his debut was because he played a position that had not been stable for the cardinals since Fernando Vina (apologies to Cardinal greats Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles, as well as a player I was way too excited about, Tony Womack). Wong also brought a much hyped set of wheels to a Cardinals roster that lacked speed, something that long bothered a segment of the fanbase that longed for the Gashouse Gang and Whiteyball, advanced analytics be damned. So, in short, everyone was very excited for Wong to play every day. And then came the errors. The headcase label. The pick-off oh dear god the pick-off. The struggles against lefties. Alongside some home runs and webgems sure, but Kolten Wong was the definition of a mixed bag, and that frustrated a fanbase spoiled with consistency (even if that consistency meant the white-bread mediocrity of a Miles or Schumaker). And some fans can't shake this impression of Wong as the uneven underachiever. If you ask 100 Cardinal fans what they think of Wong, 50 might tell you he's about to break out, and 50 might tell you he makes to many errors and is too mentally fragile. We see in Wong what we want. The SABER inclined see a defensive superstar, small errors on easy plays be damned. The traditionalists see a player who too often struggles with the fundementals (lleading off on first, routine grounders) and think the SABERmetrics won't ever fully depict his mental lapses. The optimists see potential, the pessimists see doom.
And through it all Kolten's fWAR since 2014: 1.8, 2.5, 1.2, 2.1, 2.8
A 2.4 fWAR average over a five year span. That's a darn respectable ballplayer, and one the Cardinals have a knack for turning out. Maybe Wong's two dinger start is a harbinger of a 324 homerun season. Maybe he gets injured for half the year. Maybe he plays at a 2.5 WAR level with great defense behind a groundball staff. Each fan will see in Kolten Wong a microcosm of what they see in the Cardinals. And maybe what we all should see is a solidly above average, useful regular who is very fun to watch and clearly loves the game of baseball just as much as we the fans do.