ST. LOUIS (KSDK SPORTS) - The Cardinals are happy to have a real second baseman that they can call their own.
For the first time since 2010, St. Louis' second baseman is exactly that: A second baseman by trade.
After taking the experimental approach for the past couple of seasons, employing outfielder Skip Schumaker and corner infielder Matt Carpenter as starters, 2014 gave top prospect Kolten Wong a chance to establish himself as a bonafide big league starter. Wong turned heads in spring training, going 18-48 (.375) and playing excellent defense and he was an early rookie of the year candidate in media circles.
Unfortunately, Wong got off to a rough start and on April 25, with his batting average at a paltry .225 to go with an abysmal .544 OPS, Wong was sent back down to Memphis to work on his swing. After a slight change in his swing mechanics, Wong tore up Triple-A pitching for two weeks before being summoned back to St. Louis. The move did wonders as Wong went 16 for his next 42 at-bats (.380) and earned Rookie of the Month honors in just two weeks of play. Wong was getting on-base at an otherworldly .416 clip and has his batting average up to .283 in late May and looked like the table setter the Cardinals brass wanted him to be when they tabbed him for the starting role over newly signed veteran Mark Ellis at the end of spring training.
Success would prove to be fleeting for Wong though, who endured a miniature 2-19 slump and then injured his left shoulder diving for a ball on June 5. Since then, the results have once again been horrendous: 2-20, no walks, one RBI, one stolen base, and a .103 batting average for the month of June.
So what do we do with Kolten at this point? He's had more highs and lows and O.J. and his swing seems like a mess again since the shoulder injury. Can you send him down to Triple-A again? Wong has options so it's possible but will another demotion really help Wong out that much? The problem is that Wong is just not hitting the ball hard and he definitely isn't finding holes, but he must be seeing the ball fine because his tendencies say he's spraying the ball as much as he did historically in the minors with about 27 percent flyballs and 15 percent line drives and 55 percent ground balls. He's also only struck out two times since the injury.
Wong might just be a hard shell to crack. He's still extremely young at 23-years-old, and he has shown that he can hit everywhere he's gone. He also isn't a guy that necessarily has to put up all the regular counting stats in order to be valuable. Wong can be an excellent player even if he hits .260 because of his ability to run and maximize the results when he does get on base, he plays terrific defense (arguably the best in the league at his position), and he works counts and isn't strikeout prone. Unfourtunately, his counting stats are getting so poor that it's becoming hard to run him out there everyday at this point.
I'm not calling for a change or a demotion or a trade or a reconsidering of roles yet, but the situation bears keeping an eye on. For a team that seems like it's waiting for all of it's big bats to get going, waiting on Wong to figure himself out (again) isn't ideal right now either.
Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.