After a tough start to 2016, Kolten Wong could benefit from more at-bats in AAA Memphis
When general manager John Mozeliak made the decision to sign Kolten Wong to a long-term contract back on March 3, he was making a long-term investment in a bright young second baseman who can field his position very well while also stealing a few bases and launching a few home runs into the seats. Many Cardinals fans increased expectations for Wong in 2016, and unfortunately he has not delivered up to this point.
The Cardinals currently own a 10-9 record, four games back from the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central Division standings. As is always the case, the main priority for the Cardinals is winning baseball games. Right now, Wong is not doing his part on a daily basis to help the club win. It is for this reason that Mozeliak should consider sending Wong down to AAA Memphis for a few days, once he recovers from his illness, to gain more consistent at-bats with the Redbirds.
Without Wong, the Cardinals will be just fine in the middle infield. Aledmys Diaz is on a tear at the plate right now, and Jedd Gyorko is starting to catch on as well. With Diaz and Gyorko playing well, it has been difficult for Mike Matheny to give Wong an everyday role. No one expected Diaz to hit near .500 to start the season, but he did. The Cardinals must now play the two best guys they have, and unfortunately Wong is not one of those two.
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) April 25, 2016
From a financial standpoint, the Cardinals certainly have paid Kolten Wong a lot of money to stay in St. Louis. But, what everyone must understand is that the Cardinals have made a long-term investment in Wong’s future. In fact, Wong is only being paid $1,250,000 in 2016, with the price increasing incrementally in the coming seasons. With that being said, there is a bit less pressure on Wong to perform now than in 2019, for example, when he will be owed $6,500,000. Therefore, it seems that there is no significant financial reason to keep him on the major league club with limited playing time as of right now.
Next, the Cardinals can rely on Jedd Gyorko’s 2015 season to show Wong how taking a break in the minors for a bit can go a long way towards improvement at the major league level. Last season, Gyorko was hitting .210 with two home runs and 11 RBIs while striking out 35 times. Gyorko went to AAA with these numbers and played for almost three weeks at the AAA level before making it back up to San Diego.
When he returned, Gyorko hit 14 home runs and 46 RBIs, finishing the 2015 season with a .247 batting average. By playing three weeks of minor league baseball, Gyorko was able to collect himself and finish the 2015 season strong. He raised his OPS by .100 points, his batting average by .37 points, his on base percentage by .15 points, and his slugging percentage by .86 points.
Overall, Kolten Wong has done a lot of positive things for the Cardinals in the first month of this season. He made some nice plays in the field vs. the Cubs and was productive at the plate in the Cubs series just last week. But, he cannot expect to play every day with a .204 batting average and multiple errors in the infield. While I get that he played with the flu last night, he was failing to produce before he fell ill. If Wong spends May with AAA Memphis, he will come back to the Cardinals in June with a new, revived approach and help the club in the NL Central Division race.
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