Results tagged ‘ Kolten Wong ’

We knew him when: Kolten Wong

With the amount of contributions from rookies the Cardinals are getting, I suppose we could stay with them throughout the rest of their run. Given Kolten Wong’s ninth-inning heroics in Game 2, and the fact that we’ve spoken with the rookie second baseman a TON since his draft year in 2011, he was the obvious choice. Let’s take a look:

  • It started with a pre-Draft story on Wong, who was coming out of the University of Hawaii and ready to show that his size really didn’t matter.
  • He had a huge junior season with the bat and we ranked him No. 25 on the Draft Top 50 in 2011.
  • Wong really wanted to attend the Draft in 2011, but a family illness kept him from making the long trip to MLB Network. Instead, he joined the broadcast via phone:
  • He had a huge first full season in the Minors, going straight to Double-A and spending the whole season there. He was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game. We spoke to him when he first arrived:
  • And he was mic’ed up during the Futures Game itself:
  • At the end of that first full season, Wong was ranked No. 49 on our Top 100 went to the Arizona Fall League. He was the focus of our AFL Team Report for the Cardinals:
  • He performed well in the AFL, not surprisingly, and I named him the No. 9 prospect in the Fall League that season.
  • In January before the 2013 season, Wong attended the Rookie Career Development Program:
  • I got to write about the second baseman one last time recently, as he was my pick in a Pipeline Perspectives that debated the question: Which prospect/rookie will have the largest impact in September and October? I went with Wong, while Jim went with Yordano Ventura. Guess we were both right:

Cardinals camp extras

The Cardinals prospect package is up now. You can read the Spring Training report, peruse the Top 20 list, take a look at Bernie Pleskoff’s take and watch the video here:

I had a lot of extra good stuff from my time in Jupiter with the Cardinals. Some of that has to do with how generous with his time Cards farm director Gary LaRocque was and how well-spoken 2013 first-round pick Marco Gonzales was.

First, here’s more from my chat with Gonzalez, the lefty who came in at No. 5 on the St. Louis Top 20:

There’s often a jump for two-way guys when they focus on one skill. Have you noticed anything different? Do you feel any different?

Gonzales: I feel like I have a little more stamina already just with the PFPs we do every day, the conditioning. My body is just not as worn down. I don’t feel like an old man anymore like I did in college. I don’t know if I’ve noticed a velo jump. We haven’t been paying attention to velo yet. As far as overall body care and the way I feel, it’s a lot better already.

How important do you think it is, especially about to hit your first full season, that you were able to dedicate yourself to preparing only for pitching every five days?

Gonzales: That’s going to be the most exciting thing. Preparing the whole offseason to build my legs and core has been huge for me. Not playing every day, especially the combination of hitting and pitching on the same day, it just wears on you. I’m excited to focus and get in a routine and see how it goes.

The college season has started up. Have you been keeping up with Gonzaga (his alma mater)?

Gonzales: I was texting a bunch of my teammates and was on the phone with them before their opening weekend. I was saying it felt like I should be suiting up with those guys. So much has happened in the past year, it’s kind of crazy to look back and see where you’ve been. I’ll always miss playing for those guys, but I’ve got a good thing going on here.

LaRocque had some really great things to say about the culture and the philosophy the organization tries to foster. Rather than set up his comments, I’m just posting because they are pretty self-explanatory.

LaRocque: If you look back at over these last two years, we had 20 players plus move up from the system to the big leagues and contribute, which is really the big thing. From that standpoint, you’re right. The next group has to get the at-bats and the innings to be ready for the next wave of guys. We do think we have some players who can become the same type of contributors in the big leagues. That’s what we have to do; our system is crucial to us. You have to be ready for the next wave. I think it’s very typical of most player development systems, we have to look at it for the next 2-3-4 years. We have to make sure players go from projection to production or performance as they go to the high levels. We have a share of players who went to Quad Cities and then skipped a level, skipped high A and went to Double-A right away . To their credit, they went into Double-A and they played at the level of the league right away. Knowing your own system is crucial.

Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong [all did that[. It’s important that we’ve had that level of success with those players. They  played to the league right off. When we send a player to a league, you find the players you can move or keep accelerating. We’ve found with these players, by July and August, they move ahead of the league. We tell them: April is important, but what matters is where you are in July and August.

Every day our Minor League players walk down the hallway to get to the clubhouse. Lining that hallway is a picture of every guy who is in St. Louis right now who was a Minor Leaguer. They see them, they know it can happen.

For my One More Guy candidate, I’m going to let Jim Callis do the work. He did the Top 20 and just blogged his picks for 21-25 in the system. For whatever it’s worth, I’m kind of a Greg Garcia fan.

Another two for one AFL Star of the Day entry

Covering Monday and Tuesday’s games, following my two-day stint in our studios in NYC to shoot AFL team reports and record things for the 2013 Draft Top 50 (coming in November!)

Monday’s Star of the Day nod goes to Padres’ 2b prospect Jeudy Valdez. Leading off for Peoria on Monday, the 23-year-old went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, an RBI and three runs scored. Valdez had a big year in 2011, in the hitter-friendly California League, hitting .295 with 15 homers, 92 RBIs and 34 steals. But he wasn’t nearly as productive with the move up to the Double-A Texas League (.225/.273/.364), so a good AFL could help him get back headed in the right direction.

I figured at some point, there would be repeat Stars of the Day, but I didn’t think it would happen this quickly, and I certainly didn’t think it would happen with a pitcher. With all due respect to Kolten Wong’s 4-for-4 day, it’s Kyle Gibson who once again deserves the honor. The Twins’ right-hander continues to put Tommy John surgery in his rear view mirror. The Twins’ No. 16 prospect (me thinks he’ll move up in 2013) once again went five innings, allowing one run on six hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 8. In two outings, his line reads: 10 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 0.90 ERA, 0 BB, 16 K. Not too shabby.

Gibson is one of the Twins’ prospects featured in the AFL team report we recorded in NY. Here’s the finished version.

Some changes to the Top 100

No, it’s not a re-ranking. Don’t get too excited. Besides, it’s too early for that. Not enough has happened to draw enough conclusions to move guys up and down based on performance just yet.

But what we have had are some graduations. The way we do things over at Prospect Watch, when a player on the list gets past rookie status — 130 at-bats for hitters, 50 innings pitched for pitchers or more than 45 days on the active roster for either — he has to come off.

So we had a little graduation ceremony today. Four players from the Top 100 came off:

Mike Trout, Angels
Jesus Montero, Mariners
Yonder Alonso, Padres
Randall Delgado, Braves

The first three surpassed the 130 AB mark between last year and this. Delgado did the sam with his innings threshold.

So, it’s time to welcome a new quartet to the back end of the top 100 (check them out on PW).

97. Eddie Rosario, 2B, Twins
98. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Brewers
99. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres
100. Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals

That’s right, two second baseman added. I’m crazy like that. Also be sure to check out the team lists because we replaced the graduates on their respective Top 20s as well (not to mention the positional Top 10s… big shout out to colleague Jason Ratliff for getting it done once again!)

Go out and play!

As most of you know, if you’ve ever heard me talk about it, or ever read my stuff, I’m a big fan of guys who sign early out of the Draft and get their careers started. I understand from the players’ (and advisors’) perspectives, waiting and using the deadline to their advantage in terms of getting larger pay days. Anyone who watched deadline day unfold can tell that it’s a very successful strategy.

But nothing beats playing. It’s not that those who signed late won’t be very good down the line. And it’s not like those who signed early are guaranteed success or to be better than those who held out. But getting some Minor League time in before the season ends has often helped speed a player’s ascent to the big leagues. Just ask Nationals closer Drew Storen, who signed immediately out of Stanford and now has 113 Major League appearances under his belt, all while just turning 24 a couple of weeks ago.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of those early signees and how they’re professional careers have begun:

Corey Spangenberg, Padres: No first rounder signed faster than Spangengerg. The No. 10 overall selection came to terms on June 10. As a result, he’s piled up 215 pro at-bats already. He dominated in the short-season Northwest League, hitting .384/.545/.535 with 10 steals over 25 games. That earned him a bump up to the full-season Midwest League. After hitting just .154 in 17 July games, the infielder has hit .375 in 16 August contests. He’s also had the opportunity to play second base full-time for the first time, putting him in good position to jump on the fast track in 2012.

Joe Panik, SS, Giants: He may have been a surprise first-round pick for many, but the No. 29 pick signed just a day after Spangenberg and has been raking in the short-season Northwest League. He leads the circuit with his .346 batting average and is third with his .405 OBP.  He’s even slugging .483 while swiping 12 bags.

Kevin Matthews, LHP, Rangers: All these college guys signing early is great, but when a high school arm gets going quickly, you have to love that. This Georgia prep product joined the Rangers on June 16 and has already gotten a taste of two levels, the rookie-level Arizona League and the more advanced Northwest League. Pitching largely in shorter outings, the 18-year-old No. 33 overall selection has nonetheless been impressive over 24 2/3 IP, allowing just 19 hits (.207 BAA) while striking out 26. He hasn’t been over-matched playing against largely college-age competiton in the NWL. If he breaks with a full-season team next year while other high school arms are staying back in Extended Spring Training, this is why.

Jake Hager, SS: One of the Rays’ 437 picks over the first couple of rounds, the Nevada area high schooler joined the organization on June 23. Taken No. 32 overall, Hager has put up modest numbers with Princeton in the rookie-level Appy League (.247/.287/.392), but he’s 39 games and 158 ABs richer than many of his contemporaries.

Kolten Wong, Cardinals: The No. 22 overall pick has had no trouble adjusting to the Midwest League, going right to Quad Cities after signing on June 25. The second baseman hit .432 in 10  August games before landing on the disabled list with a tweaked hammy. Overall, Wong is hitting .327/.386/.500 over 40 games.

C.J. Cron, Angels: The Utah product signed on June 28 and even though he needs shoulder surgery, he’s been able to get some professional ABs under his belt first. Playing for Orem in the Pioneer League, the first baseman has hit .308/.371/.629 with 13 homers in just 143 at-bats.

July 25 was a good day for a couple of college pitchers who bucked the typical trend. No. 3 pick Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) and No. 18 Sonny Gray both signed early (I have no problem with college pitchers who threw a ton of innings taking a break before signing). Gray has had two scoreless outings in the Double-A Texas League. He’s not piling up innings, but just the taste — and the fact he’s in Double-A now — shows how quickly he can move. Bauer, of course, is the best example. Guys in the top five, unless they are signability picks, don’t sign early. He’s now made two Double-A starts, totalling 10 innings, where he’s struck out 16, walked only four while allowing just eight hits. Look for him in Arizona’s bullpen come September.

Those are just the first rounders. I’ll be back soon to talk about the supplemental guys on down who have made a strong first impression.

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