Contract Extension Valuable for Kolten Wong’s Growth as Second Baseman
St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract extension on Wednesday that will take effect for the upcoming season through 2020.
The contract is the first among pre-arbitration eligible Cardinals and includes a club option for a sixth year, representing a mutually beneficial effort that allows St. Louis to maintain homegrown talent.
Having compiled a .250 batting average, 23 home runs and 103 RBIs with the Cardinals, Wong has played on the Cardinals’ postseason roster in each of his first three seasons. Ranked as the fourteenth best second baseman in Dayn Perry’s CBS article from January, Wong provides upside comparable to many notable second baseman in Major League Baseball.
Wong is arguably in the best position within the NL Central to fulfill second baseman responsibilities, especially since Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison and Chicago’s Ben Zobrist have played in utility roles for a larger portion of their career. In fact, Wong’s skill set is more comparable to Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips, as both have had multiple seasons with double-digit home runs and stolen bases.
This flexibility primarily results from Wong’s swing speed and lower-body strength, complemented by a crouched batting stance that allows him to stretch for low and outside pitches in the strike zone. The 25 year-old reached a peak bat speed of 111.1 mph, which resulted in his only walk-off home run last season.
Although Wong has yet to receive All-Star recognition, he offers unanticipated advantages compared to last year’s hit leaders at his position. On top of matching Jose Altuve‘s 47 RBIs with runners in scoring position last season in a lower lineup role, Wong has demonstrated stolen base efficiency (38 in 50 attempts) nearly identical to Dee Gordon (188 in 246 attempts) throughout his career.
Wong’s extension could also serve as motivation to improve various inconsistencies, particularly in regards to fielding routine ground balls or approaching at-bats more patiently. The Hawaii native compiled 17 errors and 95 strikeouts last season, but progression in these areas could help him stand out further ahead in this year’s experienced pool of second basemen.
By extending their former first-round draft pick, the St. Louis Cardinals are able to address a position that has patrolled six different Opening Day starters for the team over the past decade. Kolten Wong brings stability, energy and passion for an aging Cardinals lineup, which could ultimately guide him to becoming one of baseball’s best second basemen in the near future.