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Can Wong and Edman Both Start If the Cardinals Want to Improve the Lineup?

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MLB: Wild Card-St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals struggled to get production from their outfielders this year. However, that was not the only problem with the lineup. Tommy Edman (227 PAs) and Kolten Wong (208 PAs) took the second and third most plate appearances on the team. Additionally, Edman finished the season with a wRC+ of 90, and Wong finished the season with a wRC+ of 92. For hitters who took so many plate appearances, this is a disappointing output. So, while it is clear that the Cardinals outfield was the key problem in the lineup, it is also clear that Wong and Edman did not help things very much either.

Edman had a great rookie season in 2019 and Wong hit the ball well last season. However, there were signs that their success was due in part to batted ball luck and the regression of both of these players demonstrates the difficulty in expecting either of them to be above average hitters on a yearly basis. Additionally, with Kolten Wong’s contract potentially expiring this year, the Cardinals must make a decision on how they want their infield to look. The options are to pick up Wong’s option and keep generally the same infield alignment, to let Wong walk in free agency and move Edman over to second base regularly, or to pick up the option and then try to sign another infield bat. Of these options it looks most likely that the Cardinals will pick up Wong’s option and keep playing him and Edman in the same infield.

This will likely be a problem for the Cardinals in 2021 if this happens. Here is a picture of Kolten Wong’s Statcast page.

And here is a picture of Tommy Edman’s.

These two images appear very similar. Each player is a solid defender who does not swing and miss very often. However, each player also shows a lack of power and a well below average xwOBA. The similar profiles of these players are lowering the Cardinals offensive output. Especially with Yadier Molina at catcher, the Cardinals infield production is left to Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong. Neither Wong nor Edman is a good enough hitter to justify being in the lineup together, unless the Cardinals can improve elsewhere. Additionally, the lack of power shown by these two hitters really limits the Cardinals offense, especially with such limited production from third base. Kolten Wong is an elite defender who can typically produce around league average at the plate. Edman is a fine player due to his defensive versatility, but he also is likely going to hover around a league average level of production for his career. Both of these players are solid players individually, but when the Cardinals lineup lacks pop, it is difficult to play both of them at the same time.

This could work if the Cardinals managed to improve the lineup in other places, such as the outfield. However, if that does not happen, then the Cardinals have two somewhat redundant starters that provide little help to the offense. Besides the outfield problems, this provides another problematic area that the Cardinals need to improve. Third base and the corner outfield spots seems like the primary positions where the Cardinals need to improve their production. If one of these positions was improved, then the offense could be helped immensely. However, if the Cardiansl truly want to have a more dangerous lineup, then they will need to increase their production as both positions, making it nearly impossible to play Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman in the same lineup.