I just don’t know what to root for with Kolten Wong anymore.
I love the guy’s skills and sincerely want him to succeed. If he plays like we thought he was capable of playing, it would be a great boost for the St. Louis Cardinals.
That being said, I am deeply concerned with his apparent lack of mental toughness and I wonder if he’ll ever be able to maximize his skills if he can’t put mistakes and misfortune inherent to the game behind him.
I’ve never seen a player get so down on himself. Even when Rick Ankiel gave up on pitching, it was easy to see that he had confidence in his other skills. Ankiel kept fighting to be a major leaguer and to help his team. But Wong seems content to collect his $25 million paycheck and sit on the bench.
It’s tough to root for Wong to win playing time or a roster spot away from guys that I think are better players.
It’s great that Wong has hit four home runs in five games with Class AAA Memphis. But it doesn’t do anything to improve my confidence in him to see him dominate lesser competition when he seems to be so easily dominated at the MLB level.
Besides, Wong isn’t supposed to be a slugger. He’s a little guy who should be spraying the ball over the field in effort to get on base and make things happen. He might succeed if he’s swinging for the fences against minor league hurlers. But will shooting for the fences in Class AAA help him as a hitter in the big leagues?
I’d rather see him have four or five doubles and four or five stolen bases than a handful of meaningless home runs.
His first of two homers Tuesday night came against Angel Castro, a 33-year-old career minor leaguer who is currently sporting a 5.83 ERA in Class AAA. The second came against J.B. Wendelken, 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA this year in the minors. He made it the big leagues for two appearances earlier this season and was thrashed for five hits and five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. He surrendered a .417 batting average against and allowed three baserunners an inning before being sent back to the minors.
So lets temper our enthusiasm just a little bit.
The bigger question about Wong is where does he fit into the Cardinals roster if he returns?
It seems that the team is pretty happy with its current infield configuration of Jhonny Peralta at third, Aledmys Diaz at shortstop, Matt Carpenter at second and Matt Adams or Brandon Moss at first.
I hate to see it break up a lineup that has led to a 5-2 record over its last seven games just to justify Wong’s contract. Or to make things more comfortable at Kolten Wong Jersey Day at the ballpark on Friday.
I suggested three years ago when Carpenter was an All-Star at second base that Wong might be tried as a centerfielder, a position he played in college.
But, that was then. Frankly, if I had to choose between having Wong or Randal Grichuk on the roster, I’m choosing Grichuk.
Sure the latter has struggled this season. But he keeps grinding in a way that I don’t see from Wong. Plus, Grichuk earns his keep by being a fantastic outfielder. Sooner or later, he’ll get in a groove and Grichuk is capable of carrying this team with his bat. He did it at points of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. I don’t see the point of disrupting the long-term plan in order to find a place to shoe-horn Wong into the big league picture.
The best thing the embattled Cardinals second sacker can do at this point is try to sharpen his offensive skills to the point that he’s capable of winning a major league job. It doesn’t do any good to hand him a new position just as he was handed his questionable long-term contract.