Prior to the 2016 season the St. Louis Cardinals handed second baseman Kolten Wong a five-year $25 million-dollar deal. The move was seen as one for the future, as although Wong had slashed just .262/.321/.386 in 2015, he was still just 25 years old and had shown flashes of being a perennial 20-20 threat at second.The move was mostly lauded around baseball at the time as another smart move by the Cardinals to lock up a young stud at a team-friendly price.
Fast forward to the present and the $25-million man has since been demoted to Triple-A Memphis to find his swing after slashing a miserable .222/.306/.286 and hitting only one homer with St. Louis. Since his demotion Wong has appeared in four games for Memphis, recording 15 ABs, and has hit .467/.579/1.000 while also hitting double the amount of homers he did for the Cardinals. Of course, four games at Triple-A aren’t going to convince general manager John Mozeliak that Wong is suddenly ready for everyday action for St. Louis again, especially since Matt Carpenter is now at second for the Cardinals which means that everyday action isn’t even available for Wong in the event he was recalled.
The lack of infield spots and subsequent available playing time brings us to the interesting wrinkle in this situation. Any Cardinals fan will be able to tell you that there has been a lack of production from center field. Incumbent Randal Grichuk was thought to be ready for a breakout year but has instead struggled mightily and has not lived up to expectations. Meanwhile the Jeremy Hazelbaker Experience has faded since the start of the season and the Cardinals are now searching for answers at a premium postition. The thought of trying Wong out in center during his stint in Memphis came up but the Cardinals were quick to dismiss that idea…and yet when the Memphis lineup was posted today guess what we saw courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispacth reporter Derrick Goold.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) June 13, 2016
The Cardinals have repeatedly expressed their confidence in Wong, and by exploring different avenues to find him potential playing time in St. Louis they are showing they believe his natural talent can play at more than one position. If Wong can continue to hit well (although he obviously won’t keep up his current slash line) and continue to employ an approach he’s comfortable with while also playing at least adequate defense in center field he could be a valuable asset to a Cardinals team that is starting to heat up and is gearing up for a big series with the Chicago Cubs next week.