Cheap Seats

I kinda don't get the Wong pick

I would never want to discount the abilities of a player that I have never seen play in person. But I have to admit that my initial feelings about the Cardinals decision to draft Kolten Wong in the first round aren't exactly warm and fuzzy.

It doesn't really have anything to do with Wong. The concern revolves a lot more around the concept of drafting a 5-foot-9, 190-pound infielder in the first round.

During my earliest days as a sports reporter covering SIUC baseball, a coach once explained his philospohy for filling the infield roster: You don't try to recruit a shortstop, second baseman and third baseman. You recruit three or four shortstops because shortstops are always the best infielder on an amateur team. When you get them into camp, you figure out who is your best shortstop and he gets that position. Your second best shortstop recruit becomes your third baseman and your third best shortstop becomes your second baseman.

It's oversimplifying things a bit, obviously, but the logic holds water because taking a guy who is the best player on his team with the idea that he may switch positions later yields a lot more chances for success than taking a team's best second baseman and counting on him to do that one job. The best second baseman on a club could be the team's NINTH best player.

Major League scouts don't stray too far from that logic. The rosters of big league clubs are filled with guys who used to be high school or college shortstops. A certain guy with the Cardinals who wears number 5 and collects All-Star Game berths, MVP awards and Gold Gloves was a shortstop on his high school and junior college clubs.

A total of 11 position players were taken in the first round of the draft. Of those, five were shortstops.

So, Wong may turn out to be a great second baseman. I have no reason to think he won't -- other than the fact that about 95 percent of minor league players don't make the big leagues. But he's going to have to be a great second sacker to make it because there's really not anywhere else for him to go. He's too small to be a regular outfielder or a corner infielder and not good enough with the glove to make it as a defense first shortstop should his bat not pan out.

In short, I would have preferred to see the Cardinals draft a starting pitcher in the first round -- then spend a second or third rounder on Wong if he was still there. Based on his build and his position, he seems like a risky pick.

  Comments