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Cardinals 2020 Player Preview: Kolten Wong Looks to Repeat a Career Year

Go back, Kolten, do it again (wheels turning round and round)

2019 NLDS Game 4 - Atlanta Braves v. St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Every year of his career, Kolten Wong has elevated his overall game in some way, but with other aspects of his game fluctuating. One year, he would hit for more power but his walks slipped. Another year, he would provide elite defense and baserunning but his production at the plate would slip. He was always productive but it never gelled completely. It left fans wondering for many years what a complete season from Wong would look like. It finally happened last season- his contributions on the bases, in the field, and at the plate all merged for a glorious season:

2019 Stats

549 PA, .285 AVG, .361 OBP, .423 SLG, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 15.1 K%, 8.6 BB%, .334 wOBA, 108 wRC+, 3.7 fWAR

He finally earned his first Gold Glove (even though he deserved others in previous seasons) for his efforts. Moreover, he either tied or established career highs in:

  • fWAR
  • Batting average
  • Slugging percentage
  • wRC+
  • BsR (Baserunning Runs)

His isolated slugging- .138- was just a fraction off his career high (.139 in 2014 and 2018), and his Statcast Outs Above Average (+10) was just barely off his career high (+11 in 2018). His 15.1 BB% was the best it had been since 2015. Add all of that tasty production together and Wong’s 3.6 fWAR at second base was tied with Jose Altuve for second best in all of baseball, surpassed only by Ozzie Albies.

The beauty of all of this is that no single aspect of his breakout was abnormal. He had put up similar production before in almost all of his career highs. His ISO was something he’d done multiple times. His wRC+ was the exact same as 2017. His enhanced BB% simply returned him to 2015 levels. In other words, it’s all very repeatable. ZiPS sure seems to think so, spitting out the following projection:

2020 ZiPs Projections

503 PA, .270 AVG, .351 OBP, .407 SLG, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 14.9 K%, 8.5 BB%, .324 wOBA, 102 wRC+, 2.8 fWAR

There’s some marginal decline in there, but a 2.8 fWAR would have been the third best second baseman last year. He has the third best position player projection on the team, behind only the two Pauls (DeJong and Goldschmidt).

Not featured in that ZiPS projection is his defense. If his play last week is any indication, there’s nothing to worry about. Cue up the gratuitous glove porn!

You can’t overstate how important Wong was for the Cardinals last year. Twelve months ago, ZiPS had him projected for 2.1 fWAR. His actual 3.7 wins gave the team an additional 1.6 wins found in the couch cushions. It was enough to earn some down-ballot MVP votes (either two 10th place votes or one 9th place vote). No player better represented what made the Cardinals a playoff team last season. Namely, the offensive stats weren’t gaudy but they were augmented by top-shelf defense and intelligent baserunning.

Thanks for saving the day, Kolten. Now, no pressure, but go out and do it again.