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With these St. Louis Cardinals, it's perfectly okay that Kolten Wong is blocked

Kolten Wong is having a great season that has not gotten him any closer to the St. Louis Cardinals' starting second base gig, and that's perfectly okay.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, back in Memphis: Kolten Wong has recovered from a disappointing high-minors debut with an excellent season in the Pacific Coast League. In 56 games—that's nine more than in his big pro debut with the Quad Cities—he's hitting .319/.355/.480, pulling ahead of his sleeper-prospect double-play partner, Greg Garcia, and showing a major league readiness that would have, well, put him in the major leagues, ready or not, this time last year.

This time this year, though, he's about 15 times on base behind Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals' emergency stopgap between the Skip Schumaker Era and the Kolten Wong, Finally Era. That's how good Matt Carpenter has been: Better than we hoped Kolten Wong would be.

With Carpenter all the way into his prime years and not even due salary arbitration until after next season, it's a bad time to be a polished, medium-upside second base prospect.

But it's a good time to be blocked. Because if the 2013 season is a tribute to one thing, so far, it's to the idea that there's no such thing as having too much depth at a particular position—that eventually you're going to find yourself using all of it.

That's all it's taken to ingratiate us to the Cardinals' second-string right-handed pitchers, and to leave us not nearly as concerned as we would have been in March to learn that Matt Adams is on pace for fewer than 200 at-bats. Right now I'm perfectly willing to watch two second basemen in the organization have great seasons.


There are limits to our newfound patience and understanding, of course. The pitchers have slipped onto the team from multiple angles, and Matt Adams escaped terminal blockage because Allen Craig is as much an outfielder as he is a first baseman; if the Cardinals had a Top 100 prospect behind Yadier Molina it would be somewhat harder to justify his presence in the organization for more than one major-league-ready year. Wong, for his part, is so all-around competent at second base that it's hard to see him profiling as valuably anywhere else on the diamond.

But this season has proved (to me, at least) how easy and typically unhelpful it is to reach for "blocked" when it comes time to describe a player's place in the organization, as though the depth chart is something that can be stretched out productively two months into the future, let alone two years. "Blocked" is a descriptive term masquerading as a predictive one; it takes a phenomenon that's easiest to see in finished careers and tries to apply it in advance to careers that haven't started yet.

I'm sure there's some value to it between the extremes of Kolten Wong and Edgar Martinez, but for now Wong finds himself both behind one of the most valuable players in the National League and an injury (to either of two third baseman) or a couple slumping months away from starting at second base. That's not blocked; it's convenient.