(BaseballStL) -- Taking at look at the eight position players most confidently projected to be Opening Day starters for the Cardinals in 2014 there may not be a bigger X-factor than Kolten Wong. The 5’9” second baseman takes over for Matt Carpenter, who will slide to third due to the departure of David Freese.
With a struggling - a la 2013 version of - Wong there could be some major issues at the bottom of the lineup similar to last year. The 23-year old hit just .153 in 59 at-bats during the regular season before going just 1-6 in the playoffs.
The bottom of the Cards lineup last year had a struggling center fielder in Jon Jay combined with a struggling shortstop in Pete Kozma. If the 2013 version of Wong shows up then 7-8-9 may not look terribly different. Combine him with the potential light hitting of new center fielder Peter Bourjos and things could get a little ugly there.
They’ll be fast. They just wouldn’t hit much.
Now imagine if Wong hits. Imagine if the minor league version of Kolten Wong emerges in St. Louis. The guy that hit .303 with a .369 on-base percentage in AAA-Memphis a season ago. The guy that hit .287 with a .348 on-base percentage in AA-Springfield two seasons ago.
All of a sudden Mike Matheny could be comfortable enough moving his second baseman to the top of the lineup (either one or two) and inject some speed there. Jhonny Peralta - who most believe will hit second to begin the year - could be dropped to his more natural spot of seventh.
That would project a lineup with 1-7 hitting consistently and only allowing for the potential struggle of Bourjos - who could surprise in his move to the National League. The complexion of the Cards offense changes drastically with Wong hitting the way he always has.
GM John Mozeliak said following the trade of David Freese to the Angels this offseason that he doesn’t believe the snapshot we got of Wong in September and October is who he’s going to be long term. Mozeliak believes he’s going to hit. Mozeliak believes he’ll be a factor offensively.
Mozeliak is usually right.
For the Cardinals offensive sake, let’s hope he is.