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Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' first round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, got off to a nearly perfect start to his professional career on Monday, going 2-2 with two RBIs, a walk, a sacrifice fly, and, for good measure, on HBP to reach base four times in five plate appearances. Wong, who started at second base for the Cardinals' low-A, full-season Quad Cities River Bandits, also turned a double play.
His debut came just days after he signed with the Cardinals, inking a $1.3 million bonus and taking an aggressive assignment directly to full-season baseball after an outstanding career in college baseball. Wong joins 2010 first-rounder Zack Cox on the Cardinals' fast-track for college stars; Cox signed too late to play significantly in 2010 and began 2011 in high-A Palm Beach before being promoted aggressively to AA Springfield, an assignment Wong could certainly match if he has a hot start in the Quad Cities.
The Cardinals have yet to sign the next prospect on their list, second-rounder Charlie Tilson. Tilson, a high school outfielder, is perceived to be a tougher sign, and was once reported to be looking for a bonus in the seven figures range.
Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' first pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, officially signed with the team Sunday, heading off a week filled with hastily denied rumors and arriving in time to watch the Cardinals' 6-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Busch Stadium. Wong will receive a signing bonus of $1.3 million and report to full season ball with the Quad Cities River Bandits of the low-A Midwest League, a suitably aggressive assignment for a college star like Wong, a Hawaii product who impressed the Cardinals when he succeeded in the wood-bat Cape Cod League.
Wong is expected to move quickly through the Cardinals system, and the team hopes he combines adequate defense at second base with his already-impressive plate discipline and contact hitting. Wong hit .378 in college ball last year while holding his power numbers steady, despite the deadening of NCAA bats prior to the 2011 season, and was seen as one of the surer bets in the latter half of the first round.
The Cardinals' last first-round pick was Zack Cox, another advanced college hitter who required considerably more time and money to sign; he's already in the AA Texas League, although he's struggling mightily there. If Wong succeeds in his limited time with the Quad Cities he could follow that same career path.
Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' first pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is not a 6'10" fireballer from high school who once struck out 27 batters in a seven inning game, so he doesn't offer the kind of tall tales and bright future a first-round pick in the draft is supposed to—the dream, for Wong, is that some time in the next two years he looks like a high-OBP guy who can be plugged in at second base and hit second indefinitely. That means that he's drawn comparisons to Pete Kozma, the Cardinals' last middle infield experiment. But those just aren't fair to Wong.
What made the Kozma pick so strange in 2007 wasn't just that Rick Porcello lurked on the other side of it, and it wasn't just that Kozma was a middle infielder with a relatively low ceiling—it was that he didn't have a high floor, either. Kozma was a high schooler who needed time to develop—time he's never really gotten—and it was clear from the outset that what he seemed likely to develop into wasn't worth that risk.
Wong is a college star with wood-bat experience, and he's got better tools now and better projection later than Kozma had. Without denigrating Kozma unnecessarily, he and Wong are just different situations entirely.
The 2011 MLB Draft results are in, and one thing is clear about the St. Louis Cardinals' draft picks, even before they've all signed: They're not very tall. Second baseman Kolten Wong, the first overall pick, is a second baseman in the tradition of Fernando Vina, Aaron Miles, and Tony La Russa himself, although he promises considerably more in the way of on-base percentage than the average scrapper. Charlie Tilson, C.J. McElroy, and Kenny Peoples-Walls are all burners who lack height and the power that goes with it.
As unifying characteristics of a draft plan go this is unconventional, to say the least, but aside from the misfire on Pete Kozma, Jeff Luhnow seems to have earned some rope. So long as they do the things it says on the packaging, Luhnow's collection of undersized center fielders and infielders should be able to make up for the advertised lack of home run power.
If they don't, of course--well, I can't see Wong bulking up and moving to an outfield corner, is all I can say. For a complete list of Cardinals draft picks, with links to available scouting reports and video, visit our St. Louis Cardinals Draft Results page.
Charlie Tilson, the St. Louis Cardinals' second-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is a Chicago native, but fear not: He's a White Sox fan who has, he says, "worn red to Cubs games" before. If the Cardinals and Tilson can come to an agreement following his selection at 79th overall the prep outfielder is likely to wear red to Cubs games again in the future.
Undersized but athletic, with great speed and power that some scouts see more than others, Tilson told ESPN Chicago he'd hoped for a deal in what writer Scott Powers calls the "seven-figure vicinity" prior to the results of the draft. 2010 second-rounder Jordan Swagerty signed for a reported signing bonus of $600,000, although the Cardinals had two compensatory first-rounders that year.
Tilson was one of a number of undersized-but-athletic center fielders the Cardinals went after in the 2011 MLB Draft, but he's widely considered the best of the bunch thanks to his projectability, which might help placate Cardinals fans who weren't pleased with their distinctly unprojectable first-rounder, Kolten Wong.
Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' number-one pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, doesn't appear to be as tough a sign as Zack Cox was last season—Derrick Goold reports that Wong's adviser sees a deal as possible after "a couple of weeks," which would give Wong time to make a meaningful first impression in the Cardinals' minor league system, likely with the full-season Quad Cities River Bandits.
Previous Cardinals picks have taken longer to sign, particularly Cox, who lasted until near the deadline after falling to the Cardinals due to his demands for a Major League contract. The long delay left Cox to play just four games in 2010, spending a brief introductory stint in the Cardinals' lowest stateside affiliate, in the Gulf Coast League. Shelby Miller, the Cardinals' first-rounder in 2009, pitched just three innings that year.
The last Cardinals first-rounder to spend significant time in the system the same year was Brett Wallace, who appeared in 54 games and reached AA in 2008, hitting .337/.427/.530. Wallace, currently the Houston Astros' starting first baseman, was 21, a year older than Wong in his draft season.
Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' first pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, played most of his amateur games with the University of Hawaii and NCAA baseball's pinging aluminum bats, but the Cardinals are rumored to have been swayed just as much by his performance in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, a famous scouting spot for teams looking for hitters whose abilities will translate to the professional environment. Lucky for us, there's some video of Wong available, uploaded last year—and luckier still for us, the uploader plastered Eminem's "Lose Yourself" all over it! Something something Mom's spaghetti!
What I like about Wong here, relative to the average contact-hitting middle infielder, is that his swing has a little loft to it. It's missing the trademark Skip Schumaker slap downward toward the first base line, although we don't yet know whether or not Wong likes to slide headfirst to try to beat out grounders.
Current scuttlebutt has Wong signing relatively early in the process—certainly earlier than Zack Cox did last season—so soon we'll be able to see just how ready to lose himself the Cardinals' new second baseman is. I'm told you only get one shot.
The St. Louis Cardinals' draft continues Wednesday, as the 2011 MLB Draft reaches its final day, but through two days they've already made 30 picks. Here's a complete list of their picks so far, with links to more information as appropriate, starting with day one's selection of second baseman Kolten Wong with the 22nd pick of the first round and continuing through second-rounder Charlie Tilson to the rest of the Day 2 picks.
1. Kolten Wong, 22nd overall. Wong is a second baseman from the University of Hawaii known for his contact hitting, advanced plate discipline, and aggressive baserunning. Fan response so far has been mixed, but Wong is likely to move through the system quickly and sign early, so we could have a definitive answer sooner than expected.
2. Charlie Tilson, 79th overall. Tilson is an athletic center fielder with great speed and power scouts are divided on. MLB.com compares him to Jacoby Ellsbury. Me? I compare every athletic 5'11" center fielder with power that may or may not develop later to Ray Lankford. He's the next Ray Lankford!
3. C.J. McElroy, 109th overall. Another ath-u-lete, a high school center fielder with bloodlines—his father, Chuck McElroy, was an MLB pitcher, grandpa Sylvester played in the Negro Leagues, and Cecil Cooper is his uncle. McElroy is supposed to play outstanding defense, and as a late bloomer he might surprise with his power in the minor leagues.
4. Kenny Peoples-Walls, 140th overall. Another ath-u-lete. He possesses an "intriguing speed/power mix", according to his internet clips, and is currently a shortstop, although he's likely to move to second base as he bulks up.
5. Sam Gaviglio, 170th overall. The first pitcher, if you were counting—a little small for a starter, with a college background and the usual Dave Duncan repertoire of sinkers and double-play balls.
6. Adam Ehrlich, 200th overall. A finished product as a catcher, his skills at the plate rather than behind it are currently a mystery. But he's left-handed!
7. Nick Martini, 230th overall. Stop me if you've heard this one before: He's an undersized center fielder who's surprisingly athletic and able to hit for contact. This one's a college boy—from Kansas State.
8. Danny Miranda, 260th overall. One of the strangest picks of the draft, Miranda is a left-handed closer with a sub-nineties fastball who put up outstanding numbers for the University of Miami as a sophomore and junior.
9. Tyler Mills, 290th overall. Another college pitcher—a hard-throwing former outfielder who's had some inconsistent results as a pitcher for the University of Michigan.
10. Lance Jeffries, 320th overall. Blazingly fast outfielder who "prides himself on being able to get on base." He distinguishes himself from the earlier blazingly fast outfielders by being a local product and a real, live Cardinals fan. Also by breaking the six-footer barrier.
Capsule reports for the next 20 picks are available courtesy Austin Laymance of MLB.com.
11. Michael Maness, RHP East Carolina
12. Danny Stienstra, 1B San Jose State
13. Kolby Byrd, C Coplah-Lincoln CC
14. Kevin Medrano, 2B Missouri State
15. Matthew Williams, SS Liberty
16. Travis Miller, RHP University of Miami
17. Dutch Deol, RF Aliso Niguel HS
18. Kyle Hald, LHP Old Dominion
18. Nick Gillung, LHP Mercyhurst College
20. Aramis Garcia, Pembroke Pines HS
21. Christopher Kirsh, LHP Lackawanna College
22. William Kamplain, LHP Walker HS
23. Patrick Deese, RHP Western Carolina
24. Jonathan Cornelius, LHP Florida Tech
25. Todd McInnis, RHP Southern Miss
26. Brett Graves, RHP Francis Howell HS
27. Gary Apellan, RF Santa Ana College
28. Ryan Sherriff, LHP West Los Angeles College
29. Christopher Matulis, LHP Central Florida
30. David Bergin, RHP Tennessee Wesleyan
Early pick for best name of the draft: Dutch Deol.
After selecting polished college hitter Kolten Wong in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals went after several speedy high schoolers in the middle rounds of the draft Tuesday. Charlie Tilson, a left-handed center fielder who earned Jacoby Ellsbury comparisons in the mothership article, was their second-rounder, going 79th overall. In the third round they selected C.J. McElroy, Cecil Cooper’s nephew, another high school burner who’s equally renowned as a wide receiver recruit. Their fourth-round pick was high school infielder Kenny Peoples-Walls, a California shortstop with good speed and contact skills who might end up at second base.
Tilson, whose wood-bat power is a subject of some dispute, might require late-first-round money to sign, something the Cardinals should be able to do given their paucity of supplemental picks so far.
Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' 22nd-overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, has been described by scouts as a "pure" hitter—a line-drive hitter without a lot of power who puts up gaudy batting averages and does it, in this case, from the left side. His college stats from the University of Hawaii show that exact player, a career .358 hitter with 103 walks to 63 strikeouts and increasingly solid plate discipline. Wong had an especially strong adjustment to the weakened aluminum bats used in college baseball this season, improving his average from .357 to .378 while holding his power numbers steady.
Wong also ran aggressively in college, though scouts consider his speed only average; he stole 23 bases in 57 games in 2011, which was his junior season. Fans of scrappy top-of-the-order hitters will like that he took nine HBPs in 2011, while he was at it...
Wong has no one tool on which to hang his cap; if he's to succeed for the Cardinals he'll have to be the same well-rounded player he was in Hawaii, playing an average second base, hitting for a high average with walks, and running the bases smartly. He's the kind of player that, in lieu of any one strength, must play without any significant weaknesses.
Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals' first pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, received mixed reviews after being selected 22nd overall in the first round. An undersized second baseman with great hitting skills and line drive power, some are worried about his projectability, as well as his defense at second base, while the Cardinals are optimistic that he'll be able to move quickly through a system that's largely devoid of prospects in the middle infield.
Future Redbirds calls the pick "on the safe side but not as bad as Pete Kozma," the Cardinals' much-maligned first-rounder in 2007, and collates some scouting reports that vary in terms of power—not much to 10-15 home runs a year—future—could end up at catcher, of all places, to could play all over the infield—and "powerfully built" to not especially projectable.
Viva El Birdos's reactions were similarly mixed, settling on a player who is a better bet than Kozma but not the most exciting player available in the draft. If he signs as quickly as some expect him to, Wong will be able to dispel these doubts with a strong debut in full-season ball.
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Gerritt Cole, a UCLA starter with a triple-digits fastball, to kick off the NL Central's night at the 2011 MLB Draft Monday. It was the first of just five picks the teams in the division had in the first 60; none of the teams had compensation picks, while the St. Louis Cardinals selected Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong with the 22nd overall pick in the draft.
After Cole came Javier Baez, the Chicago Cubs' first pick at ninth overall. Baez has "explosive bat speed and outstanding power potential," although John Sickels isn't sure he'll be able to stick at shortstop. The Astros went for athletic center fielder George Springer with the 11th pick, giving them a prospect they might be able to build around in a decimated minor league system. The Milwaukee Brewers selected a left-handed pitcher, Jed Bradley, who they hope will move fast and take up residence in the middle of their rotation, which has long been a sore spot. Finally, the Reds selected Robert Stephenson 27th overall, going the high-upside prep starter route.
For the second draft in a row the St. Louis Cardinals went with a polished, contact-hitting college infielder with their first pick, selecting University of Hawaii 2B Kolten Wong with the 22nd pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Wong, 20, hit .378/.492/.560 and stole 23 bases with Hawaii, according to the mothership report on him.
Over at Viva El Birdos, the initial fear is that he resembles not Zack Cox, the 2010 polished-infielder who was widely judged as the best pure hitter in the draft, but Pete Kozma, the much-maligned high school shortstop who seemed to project from the moment he was drafted as a utility infielder.
Wong is supposed to move somewhat faster, and could help stabilize an infield situation that's been a mess for years, but it's always worrisome to see an MLB team draft for need, given the amount of time it takes an MLB Draft prospect to reach the majors for good. Wong doesn't appear to be a tough signability issue, so he could be a member of one of the St. Louis Cardinals' full-season squads soon. For all the updates on the Cardinals' draft performance, follow our 2011 MLB Draft storystream.
Scouting reports for the various 2011 MLB Draft prospects can, at times, be tough to come by—there are simply too many of them, doing too much in places with too few cameras and reporters, to reach the same kind of saturation you get in the NFL and NBA drafts. That's why I always look forward to Aaron Schafer's scouting report sets on Viva El Birdos. Of late he's scouted Tony Zych, Colton Murray, and Marcus Stroman; Andrew Chafin, Grayson Garvin, and Ian Gardeck; Josh Bell, Nick Delmonico, and Travis Harrison (who "is a monster... and hits like a monster"); Bubba Starling ("Paul Bunyan in cleats"), Blake Swihart, and Matt Purke; Francisco Lindor, Levi Michael, and Phillip Evans; and Henry Owens, Daniel Norris, and Daniel Camarena.
Now I'm going to take a deep breath.
The fundamental wackiness of the MLB Draft is such that after all that work we still have no idea whether the St. Louis Cardinals will end up taking any of these players. But with these scouting reports in hand you'll be able to say one thing more about the average first rounder than most people whose children aren't about to be drafted.
Dylan Bundy, one of the best high school pitching prospects in the 2011 draft, has reportedly asked teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals to hold off on selecting him for fear that they'd ask him to change his throwing-heavy work habits. Jeff Passan broke the story, which relates to whether or not the team would allow him to long-toss.
Bundy's pitching program looks outrageous, though so does the throwing that most high school pitchers do, but this is a fascinating move on his par, and demonstrates if nothing else his convictions on a very touchy side of the pitching debate. He's unlikely to get a lot of good press for this move, but he's got to be concerned most, at this point, with protecting his arm—and whether he's actually doing it or not by throwing 300-foot loopers, he's convinced he is.
At some point the team has to have some say in a player's program, or his plans, or his understanding of his own abilities, but pitchers in particular should speak up whenever they can; they're simply too fragile to allow someone further away from their own arm to make decisions about their health or repertoire.
The draft's constant whine of increasing signing bonus demands means the St. Louis Cardinals will have their pick of many of the top 2011 MLB Draft prospects when it comes around on June 6, even though they're choosing 22nd overall; last year they took the player many considered the draft's top college hitter, Zack Cox, despite having the 25th pick in the draft, due to their willingness to give him the Major League contract he desired.
Of course, some players will be out of reach no matter what they ask, even if there's no Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper locked in to this year's number one spot. The current MLB.com Mock Draft has Gerrit Cole going first overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose new regime is loath to pick for draftability in the wake of the Daniel Moskos disaster.
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