Cardinals' Wong learning way around bases
St. Louis' top second-base prospect plates run in Surprise's AFL victory
Kolten Wong is on a mission this fall to become a better base runner, and Monday was a learning opportunity. In other words, he got caught stealing.
"I'm learning what to do and what not to do," said Wong, the Cardinals' No. 2 offensive prospect. "I'm taking a lot of risks lately, but I'm learning from each one and learning what my limits are."
Wong's work with the bat doesn't need as much polish -- St. Louis' first-round pick from 2011 knocked home a run in his third straight multi-hit game and Kansas City's Justin Marks worked three scoreless innings to help Surprise blank Scottsdale, 4-0, in the Arizona Fall League.
Batting .353 in four games so far for the Saguaros, Wong said Arizona will be an opportunity to fine-tune his game against some top talent.
"I feel alright, I'm still learning what to do. I'm getting a lot more repetitions," he said. "I'm happy with what I'm doing now and just want to keep progressing."
The second baseman is coming off a solid second season in the Minors in which he hit .287 with nine homers, 52 RBIs and 21 stolen bases following a promotion to Double-A Springfield. He was 21-of-31 in stolen-base attempts a year after going 9-of-14 as a rookie with Class A Quad Cities. With Surprise, he's 1-for-3.
He said his top priority this fall is improving in that department.
"No. 1, just getting better every at every aspect of the game, and for me, the most important thing is really working on my base running and stealing bases," he said.
"For me, just repetition, getting different reads off pitchers, getting their rhythm and getting that jump. Right now, it's a learning process and getting comfortable taking the right lead and jump and how to do it the right way," he added.
Ranked as the Cardinals' No. 4 prospect overall behind Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, Wong said he hasn't sought advice from any coaches in Surprise, but he'll probably hook up with an instructor to get some tips soon.
As for Monday's win, Wong went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the second after lining a base hit in his first at-bat.
Darrell Ceciliani (Mets) and Hanser Alberto (Rangers) also had RBIs for the Sags in support of Marks, who held the Scorpions to a hit and struck out three over three innings.
Wong said he was impressed with Marks' stuff on the mound.
"I faced him this year in Double-A, and you could tell he's a good pitcher," said Wong, who saw Marks with Northwest Arkansas. "You've come to expect that at this point."
Giants left-hander Chris Gloor started for Scottsdale and was charged with three runs on five hits and three walks over three frames to suffer his first loss.
Wong, a Hawaiian native, has been spending his nights following his teammates in the playoffs as St. Louis beat Washington last week to advance to the NLCS.
"I've been watching my boy, Trevor Rosenthal. We became close in the Minors, we came up together. I was with him in [Class A] and now watching him throw, it's awesome to see," Wong said of the Cardinals' hard-throwing reliever. "He's always had that in the tank, so it's fun to see him let go in some pitches."
Wong, a Texas League All-Star and Futures Game selection this past summer, said he can tell the AFL is a step up from the pitchers he faced with Springfield.
"Absolutely, Double-A was an unbelievable experience, everyone you faced was good," he said. "But here, you face nothing but the best, every pitcher is throwing their best stuff. Every guy is throwing easily 90, maybe 95 -- some guys are touching 98. It's tough facing that kind of pitching, but it's fun too."
Wong also had a taste of home last week on his birthday -- he turned 22 on Oct. 10 and got to spend time with his family as they were in town to see Wong's younger brother, Kean, compete in the Arizona Senior Fall Classic, a baseball tournament that took place at the AFL's own Peoria Sports Complex. Kean, an infielder who plays for Waiakea High School in Hilo, Hawaii, has committed to play for Hawaii in college.
"My family came down to celebrate and my brother was in the Classic, so he came down and hung out," said Wong. "It was perfect, it was a lot of fun."
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.