Kolten Wong

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Kolten Kaha Wong

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Biographical Information[edit]

Kolten Wong was a first-round draft pick in 2011.

High School[edit]

Wong was All-State in high school in 2006 and 2008 and was also All-League in football three times. He hit .660 as a senior, never below .500 during his time in high school. THe Minnesota Twins took him in the 16th round of the 2008 amateur draft but he did not sign.

College[edit]

As a freshman at Hawaii, he hit .341/.418/.597 with 21 doubles, 11 homers and 52 RBI in 58 games, while stealing 11 bases in 15 tries. He was named Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and All-WAC in the outfield. Baseball America picked him as one of their Freshman All-American outfielders, alongside Jackie Bradley Jr. and George Springer; all three would go in the first round of the draft two years later. He then played for Team USA' college edition, but struggled at .215/.316/.277. He was third on the team with 11 steals, trailing Tyler Holt and Christian Colon. The team did not play in a major international tournament.

Wong batted .357/.435/.534 in 2010 and was All-WAC, this time as a second baseman. In the summer, he dazzled for the Orleans Firebirds at .341/.426 /.452. He was third in the Cape Cod Baseball League in average, tied for second in steals (22 SB, 7 CS), was second in OBP and 4th in slugging. He was named the Cape Cod League MVP. Baseball America rated him as the circuit's 13th-best prospect.

His junior year, Kolten was All-WAC for the third straight season, hitting .378/.492/.560. He was fourth in the WAC in average, third in OBP, fourth in slugging, first in steals (23 in 30 tries) and fourth in walks (42). He scored 48 runs and drove in 53 in 57 games. He finished his career second in homers at the University of Hawai'i (25).

Draft[edit]

The St. Louis Cardinals made him the 22nd pick of the 2011 amateur draft. Only two other Hawai'i players had ever gone in the first round - pitchers Mark Johnson (1996) and Mike Campbell (1985). On June 22nd, a report circulated that Wong had signed with the Cardinals, but GM John Mozeliak quickly denied this, adding that he still hoped to sign him before the August 15th deadline to sign drafted players.

Minors[edit]

Indeed, his signing was announced on June 25th, for a $1.3 million signing bonus, starting his career with the Quad Cities River Bandits. He debuted on June 27th against the Cedar Rapids Kernels, going 2 for 2 with a walk, run and 2 RBI while being caught stealing in his lone try. He hit a solid .335/.401/.510 in 47 games for Quad Cities in 2011. In 2012, he moved up to the Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League, where he hit .287/.348/.405 in 126 games. He was selected for the 2012 Futures Game and was named to the league's All-Star team as the second baseman. In 2013, he moved up again, to the AAA Memphis Redbirds, where he hit .303/.369/.466 in 107 games. He played in the 2013 Futures Game as one of a handful of returnees, and had accumulated 21 doubles, 8 triples and 10 homers when he got the call to St. Louis.

Majors[edit]

The Cardinals were in the middle of a tough pennant race with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds when they called up Wong on August 16, 2013. They were disappointed with the production of 3B David Freese and were hoping that the young second baseman could help boost their line-up, with 2B Matt Carpenter sliding over to third on the days Kolten would start at second. He made his debut as the starter at second on the day of his call-up, facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. However, the Cards were stymied by Jake Arrieta who pitched a two-hitter in combination with two relievers that day, and Wong went 0 for 3 with a strikeout in the 7-0 loss. He played 32 games for the Cardinals during the regular season, hitting .153 in 59 at-bats. Still, he was kept on the Cards' roster for the postseason, because of his running and defensive abilities. He got to play in all three rounds of the postseason, although he was mainly used as a pinch-hitter in spite of his lack of hitting at the major league level. In Game 3 of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he was inserted at second base in the 8th inning as part of a double switch, then he singled and stole second in the bottom of the inning for his first career postseason hit. In Game 4, however, he was the goat for the Cardinals, as he was inserted as a pinch-runner for Allen Craig with one out in the 9th and the Cardinals trailing, 4-2. However, after the second out, he was picked off first base by Koji Uehara to end the game.

Wong was named the Rookie of the Month in the National League in May of 2014 as he went 16-for-38 (.333) in 13 games after being called up from AAA Memphis. He had started the season in St. Louis as the team's starting second baseman, with Matt Carpenter moving from 2B to 3B following the off-season trade of David Freese, but he was hitting only .225 on April 25th when he was sent down to regain his batting stroke. On June 3rd, he hit his first career home run, a grand slam off James Shields of the Kansas City Royals in an 8-7 loss. He ended up hitting .249 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 113 games as a rookie and was named the second baseman on the 2014 Topps All-Star Rookie Team. In the postseason he flashed some power, with a homer in St. Louis' win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS; that long ball came off Scott Elbert in the 7th inning of Game 3 and gave the Cards a 3-1 win. In the NLCS, he added two more dingers, in addition to a triple and a pair of doubles as he slugged .833. However, the Cardinals bowed to the San Francisco Giants in five games. Still, he was responsible for the Cardinals' only win in the series when he hit a walk-off homer off Giants closer Sergio Romo in the 9th inning of Game 2 on October 12th for a 5-4 win.

Kolten then played 150 games for the Cardinals in 2015 as they finished with the best record in the major leagues. He collected 146 hits, including 28 doubles, 4 triples and 11 homers, scored 71 runs and drove in 61. His batting line was .262/.321/.386. Because his OBP was still below average, his OPS+ was only 98, but with his defensive skills and durability, he was still a valuable player for St. Louis. The Cards' season ended abruptly, however, as they were upset by the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS. Wong went 2 for 14 in the series, with both hits going for extra bases: a double and a homer off Kyle Hendricks in a losing cause in Game 2. On March 2, 2016, he signed a contract extension with St. Louis, for five years and $25.5 million. Yet, when he started the year hitting .222 in his first 49 games, the Cardinals decided to send him to the minors on June 6th. They wanted to reactivate veteran Jhonny Peralta from the disabled list, but with his replacement at SS, rookie Aledmys Diaz, playing extremely well, they inserted him at third base and moved third baseman Matt Carpenter to second, making Kolten the odd man out. He ended up playing 121 games that season, hitting .240 with a rare combination of extra bases: 7 doubles, 7 triples and 5 homers.

In 2017, he played just 108 games for the Cardinals because of the logjam of infielders, but he had his best offensive season thus far, with a batting line of .285/.376/.412 and an OPS+ of 109. It was Diaz whose bat was a disappointment and who lost his job, making Kolten the undisputed starter at second in 2018. He did not hit as well, but still played 127 games, hitting .249 with 18 doubles, 9 homers, 41 runs and 38 RBIs. His OPS+ fell to 98, which was acceptable given he was a superior defensive player. He then put it all together in 2019, as the Cardinals returned to the postseason after a three-year hiatus. That season, he won his first Gold Glove at second base, received some down-ballot consideration in the MVP vote and finished at .285/.361/.423, numbers almost identical to those he had put up in 2017, and an OPS+ of 108. He scored 61 runs and drove in 59, and hit 24 doubles and 11 homers while stealing 24 bases and only being caught 4 times. In the postseason, he went 5 for 20 with 3 doubles, 3 runs and 4 RBIs in the Cardinals' win over the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, and 2 for 14 as they were swept by the Washington Nationals in the NLCS. He repeated as the Gold Glove winner in 2020, a season shortened to 60 games by the Coronavirus pandemic, but his power almost vanished as reflected by a batting line of .265/.350/.326, with just 7 extra-base hits in 53 games: 4 doubles, 2 triples and 1 homer. His OPS+ tumbled from 108 to 87. The Cardinals returned to the postseason and in the Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres, he went 3 for 14 with a double and a homer. These turned out to be his last games with the Redbirds as the Cardinals decided not to re-sign him after the season, making him a free agent, an announcement that came almost simultaneously with his being awarded the Gold Glove.

On February 3, 2021, it was reported that he had come to terms with the Milwaukee Brewers for two years and $18 million. Notably, the Brewers already had on board a player very similar to Kolten in many ways, in young Hawaiian 2B Keston Hiura. But if Kolten's best asset was his glove, Hiura's was his bat, and it was implied that the veteran player would be a mentor to the younger one on the finer aspects of fielding.

He is the brother of Kean Wong.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jenifer Langosch: "Cards counting on refocused Wong at second", mlb.com, January 15, 2016. [1]
  • Adam McCalvy: "Gold Glover Wong agrees with Crew (source)", mlb.com, February 3, 2021. [2]

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