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Cardinals Give Kolten Wong Another Shot At Second

By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Kolten Wong, Second Baseman, St. Louis Cardinals

2013 season (minors): 107 G, 412 AB, .303 BA, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 20 SB, .835 OPS

2013 season (majors): 32 G, 59 AB, .153 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 SB, .363 OPS

Over the past few seasons, Cardinals fans have been treated to what seems like a steady flow of prospects from the team's seemingly endless pipeline taking over the league. From Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig at the plate to Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller on the mound, it's really been quite impressive. Top second base prospect Kolten Wong looks to be the next in line.

A first round draft pick of the Cards in 2011, Wong rapidly climbed the minor league ranks in the last three years. After 47 Single-A games in 2011, he made the move up to Double-A, where he really shined. He showed off his speed, stealing 21 bases (though he was caught 11 times), and his bat, hitting .287 with a .348 OBP in 126 games. He made a quick move to Triple-A last year.

At Memphis he really got everything rolling on the basepaths with 20 steals in 21 tries. He hit .303 with a .369 OBP thanks to an impressive 8.9 BB% and even added 10 home runs. All throughout the minor leagues, he showed the ability to get on base – an obvious key with his speed – and limit his strikeouts (just 13 percent K-rate in 2013).

Everything was going according to plan when he got the call to the bigs. Unfortunately, that’s where Wong finally hit a wall. He went 0-for-8 before finally getting on base in his fourth game, stealing two bases on two hits. He followed that up the next day with three more hits and another steal and appeared to be on his way.

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That wasn’t the case, however. Wong followed up his three-hit game by going hitless in his next eight games (0-for-12). He would get just three more hits during the season and finished 9-for-59 with only three walks.

Fortunately for Wong, the Cardinals remember his impressive minor league track record and are willing to overlook his recent struggles. They're giving him the nod at second base this season, and deservedly so.

Wong had major issues with the Cards last year, but they were confined to 59 at-bats spread over 32 games. He didn’t get consistent starts and had just one at-bat in 15 different games. This year he’ll start at second and appear in the lineup every day, so the consistent at-bats should help him regain the plate discipline and contact rate he showed off in the minors. He plays above-average defense at second and can obviously steal bases, provided he gets on. Look for Wong to capitalize on all that potential with a full-time gig.

Next up: Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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