It seems that prospect watchers across baseball spill more ink on one subject above all others – identifying and trying to explain why seemingly “sure things” did not pan out as expected.
One player the second-guessers can ignore is the St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2011, second baseman Kolten Wong. Taken 22nd overall, the junior from the University of Hawaii signed quickly, before June was out, for a reported signing bonus of $1.3 million.
The left-handed hitter wasted no time getting to work earning his pay as a professional. At age 20, Wong immediately began to punish Midwest League hitting, while showing more with the glove than many expected.
Not a big player at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Wong does not have a true standout tool, but is considered slightly above average in all aspects of the game. He has a compact swing, makes solid contact, has pull power, reasonable speed and good baserunning instincts. While he is earmarked for second base, Wong is viewed as athletic enough to be able to play elsewhere in the infield and outfield if needed later on.
Count Cardinals farm director John Vuch among Wong’s many admirers.
“Kolten came into the system as advertised,” Vuch noted. “He’s got great baseball instincts and is a very mature bat. We were pleased to see the rapid improvements he made defensively, and he was a quick learner in terms of getting himself up to speed with our fundamentals.”
Seven games into his career, Wong began an 11-game hitting streak and had a .324 average after 18 games. The MWL champion River Bandits’ lead-off man made a short detour to the disabled list from August 12-28 as the organization wanted to ensure a hamstring problem did not linger.
Wong finished his rookie season with a stellar .335/.401/.510 line over his first 47 professional games. He had 25 RBI, 39 runs scored and 21 walks against 24 strikeouts in 194 at-bats. Wong logged 15 doubles, two triples and five home runs.
Of course, Wong isn’t a finished product. For example, he stole nine bases, but was caught five times. Wong needs more work with left-handed pitching, against which his OPS was just .668.
All in all, Wong was everything expected and more.
Vuch summed it up well. “Kolten certainly appears to have a bright future ahead of him,” the farm director concluded.
Congratulations to Kolten Wong, The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Minor League Rookie Position Player of the Year for 2011.
Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2011 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers. Not yet a subscriber? Join now!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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