Some thoughts, context and details on the pick
My story on Kolten Wong has been filed and should be updated on Cardinals.com in a bit. But I had a few things I wanted to add, because surprisingly 1000 words is not enough. I don’t know who I’m turning into, but whatever.
* First, my take on the pick. I understand that some people wanted somebody like Mikie Mahtook or a high-upside arm or even Josh Bell, and I get that. Philosophically, that’s what I think they should be doing too. So my first reaction to the pick was, “Yeah, that’s fine.”
So while it may seem that I’m singing to the high heavens about how great the pick is, that’s not really what I’ve been trying to do tonight. I’m mostly trying to contrast what I think has been an unfair and inaccurate line of conversation about Wong. Because he is undersized, I think people are rushing to dismiss this as a “makeup” pick, assuming that they drafted a kid because he’s gritty or scrappy or something.
The pick may not work out, but that’s not why he was drafted. The parallel to 2007 that some people are trying to draw, just doesn’t apply. This young man can hit. We’ll see how good a defensive player he turns out to be, though he does have some speed (23 steals in 57 games). But he’s a hitter.
He played in a park which, according to Boydsworld.com, is a significant pitchers’ park. He played on a team that faced some very nice non-conference competition (including Texas, Cal State-Fullerton, Oregon and Wichita State). He was the MVP of the wood-bat Cape Cod League. He hit for average, drew walks and hit for a little bit of power. The kid’s a hitter. They didn’t draft him because somebody liked the look in his eye. They drafted him because they think he’ll hit in the big leagues. On Draft day, he’s a lot closer to Zack Cox than he is to Pete Kozma.
* Drafting a second baseman is a bit unorthodox. In each of the past three years, exactly one 2B was taken in the first round. In the three years before that, no 2B went in the first round.
* And that’s my biggest worry. You draft a SS, if he doesn’t stick defensively, you’ve still got a 2B or 3B on your hands. You draft a 2B and he doesn’t stick, you’ve got a utility player. Wong has to be a big league 2B to be a big league regular, I believe. And that has been one weakness of recent Cardinals Drafts: tweeners. Players with who lack the glove for the more difficult position but lack the bat for the less difficult position. I hope Wong doesn’t turn out to be one of those, where the glove doesn’t play at 2B but the bat doesn’t play at a corner.
* Don’t underestimate the value of his age. Wong is still only 20. If he IS in fact at Double-A next year before he turns 22, that’s a pretty nice development path. He’s 19 months younger than Cox.
* Regarding positions and position shifts, Jeff Luhnow very explicitly said that for the Cards organization, Cox is a 3B. The question was asked because there’s been some thought that Cox will migrate to 2B, which might make Wong somewhat redundant. But Luhnow was adamant.
* Wong’s coach, Mike Trapasso, has been at Hawaii since 2001, and before that his bio says he was at Georgia Tech for seven years. I don’t know if that means he coached on the ’94 team there; I’m assuming, frankly, that he did not. But either way, at Tech in the late ’90s, he saw some serious talent. And according to Trapasso, Wong is the second-best player he’s coached, behind Mark Teixeira.
* I’ve heard a few different comparisons, but the one that seems to make the most sense is Fernando Vina. A couple of people on Twitter bashed the pick based on that comp, but I think that really misses the point. I have no idea if the kid grows up to be Vina, BUT if you could guarantee me right now that he IS going to, I’d tell you right away that that’s a good pick. If you get a quality, borderline-All-Star Major League regular with the 22nd overall pick, you did well.
Again, I don’t know whether he will. I just think expectations need to be reasonable.
* Trapasso said that the Vina comp made sense, but that he believes Wong will show more power than Vina.
* I noted this in the story, but Jeff Luhnow sounded very confident this wouldn’t be a deadline deal. They think he wants to play ball and will get a deal done quickly.
A quote from Wong to that effect: “They were talking about signability, and that’s when I told them, I just want to get out there and play and start my career.”
Anyway. That’s all I got. Just some extra context. I’m not at all convinced this is a total home-run pick; heck, it may not work out at all. Zack Cox may not work out either. But I think it’s a much better pick than some folks are making it out to be.