Kolten Wong started the season poorly, resulting in a demotion to the AAA Memphis. While such demotions are discouraging, one must keep perspective; after all, isn’t this what the Minor Leagues are for?
It’s prospect season. After the conclusion of the 2016 MLB Draft, baseball fans have infinite reasons for excitement, as their team attempted to select stars of the future. To compound such excitement, the college baseball postseason is well under way, as fans are allowed a sneak peak at some of their team’s selections.
With major league clubs just beginning the summer grind, organizations are navigating a hectic time, negotiating with heralded prospects, aiming to get them into rookie ball as fast as possible. After years of scouting, traveling, and cross-checking, it is finally time for professional dreams to be realized, both for players and organizations.
As new faces burst onto the scene for the Cardinals, the minor leagues will provide a tough learning curve, hopefully shaping players into difference makers for years to come. For any baseball fan, this role of the minor leagues is obvious, as stiff competition and instruction aims to shape young, raw prospects into polished professionals.
While the minor leagues are a place for longitudinal development, they also offer second chances. Such is the case for Kolten Wong, as he was demoted to AAA after a weak start to his 2016 campaign. In a time of new players and possibilities, one must keep a close eye on this development.
For dedicated Cardinals fans, demotions to young players like Wong can be taken as both discouraging and frustrating. Negative thoughts can and will approach, as one must confront the possibility that Wong may not have what it takes. With any young player, demotions are scary; players are confronted with public adversity, pressured to swallow their pride and figure it out.
In reality, however, demotions such as Wong’s are a perfect solution to a common problem. The Cardinals front office understands the potential of Kolten Wong, using their farm system as not only a prospect development tool, but also as a mechanism to reintroduce confidence and consistency.
So far, it seems like a trip to Memphis was just what Wong needed. In his first five games in Memphis, Wong is 8-19 with two home runs, both coming in his first game. Of these two blasts, one was particularly impressive; in a matchup with Colorado Springs, Wong launched a walk-off grand slam, capping off a special first night in Memphis.
How can you not feel happy for a guy like Kolten Wong. Takes his demotion with stride and goes out and kills it the first game!
— Cards Nation (@CardsNation13) June 10, 2016
Through five games, Wong has responded mightily to the Cardinals challenge, performing like a big-leaguer in his stint in AAA. If Wong continues to use his minor league time constructively, the Cardinals can expect to (at some point) regain a more confident Wong, ready to produce consistently and dynamically. While there may not be a definite spot waiting for him upon return, Wong could offer versatility and depth, possibly bolstering an already impressive pinch-hitting track record for the Cards.
Speaking of versatility, Wong started last night’s game vs Nashville in center field, showing an ability to stretch himself defensively. While Wong may not have had the start he had hoped for in 2016, such a position switch proves yet again that a demotion to AAA is a positive development in his career. Not only will Wong have time to refine his offensive approach and mechanics, but he will also be given the opportunity to increase versatility defensively, improving the likelihood that he will be reinstated smoothly in St. Louis.
Demotions, by nature, are viewed as punishments for sub-par performance. While this is undoubtedly accurate in some ways, I think that demotions should be looked at in a more positive and forgiving light. Especially for young players like Wong, minor league demotions offer a wonderful opportunity for low-pressure repetitions, allowing for a mental rest from the daily major league pressures. Sure, it may be a tough pill to swallow, but I believe that in certain instances, a change of scenery is the best remedy for a struggling youngster.
Photo captured by Gary A. Vasquez- USA Today Sports