While Kolten Wong was limited to 108 games due to elbow, triceps and back injuries, his rate stats were better than ever in his age-26 season. He raised his on-base percentage nearly 50 points to .376 thanks in part to another uptick in walk rate (10 percent) and another decline in chase rate, and his .336 wOBA and 107 wRC+ were also well above his previous career highs. Wong was fortunate on balls in play (.331 BABIP), and his 48.1 percent groundball rate doesn't exactly bode well for his ability to increase his home-run numbers dramatically moving forward, but Wong has good speed and instincts on the bases to complement his above-average plate skills -- Wong is 15-for-17 on stolen-base attempts over the past two seasons. Manager Mike Matheny has kept Wong on a short leash so far in his career, but the reins may finally come off after Wong hit .274 with a .360 OBP against lefties last season.
Wong is expected to serve as the Cardinals' No. 8 hitter during the upcoming season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Aside from the notable absence of Matt Carpenter, who remains unavailable due to a back injury, the St. Louis lineup for Sunday's 4-3 win over the Nationals in Grapefruit League play resembled the team's ideal Opening Day arrangement. It featured Wong batting ahead of the pitcher, an assignment that wouldn't seem favorable for the second baseman's run-scoring and stolen-base opportunities. Injuries will inevitably force the Cardinals to rearrange their lineup at various points throughout the season, but Wong's routine placement near the bottom of the order renders him a lower-end fantasy option at the keystone, despite the strong support he'll likely provide in terms of batting average.
Wong hopes to earn the green light on the bases this spring, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. "I have to establish the fact that I want to run, and show them that I'm having success running," Wong said. Even though Wong expects to bat eighth in front of the pitcher this year, which can suppress steals as the pitcher is often looking to bunt, he believes he can improve on last year's eight steals (on 10 attempts) if he can earn the green light. "I want to get that aggressiveness built in, so when the games start all I'm thinking is going, going, going and being able to react to the rhythm when I should," Wong said. He stole a base in Tuesday's game, and earned the praise of manager Mike Matheny, who thinks Wong is at his best when he's impacting the game in all facets. "He can change the game with his speed. He can change the game by doing the little things," Matheny said. Even though Wong will likely sit against lefties (75 career wRC+), he has the potential to hit 10-plus home runs and steal 15-to-20 bases while hitting for a decent batting average. Given how tough it is to find steals late in drafts, he makes for a fine middle-infield option in deeper leagues.
Wong (back) remains out of the lineup Saturday against the Brewers. He will miss a fifth straight game with an ailing back. Greg Garcia will start at the keystone and lead off. Wong was hitting just .170/.302/.208 in 53 at-bats this month prior to the injury.
Wong (back) is out of the lineup against the Brewers on Friday, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. Wong will miss a fourth straight game due to nagging back problems that have plagued him for a majority of this past month. In his place, Greg Garcia is set to start at the keystone while batting atop the order.
Wong (back) is not in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Cubs, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. Wong continues to deal with back tightness -- an issue that has bothered him all month -- so he'll open on the bench for a third straight contest. The 26-year-old will remain a day-to-day case; Matt Carpenter is manning the keystone in his stead, opening up a spot for Jedd Gyorko to start at the hot corner.
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