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Prospect Wong should not be overlooked

Prospect Wong should not be overlooked play video for Prospect Wong should not be overlooked

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As circumstances would have it, second baseman Kolten Wong has gone about his work this spring under minimal external scrutiny.

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He's not the focus at his position, mostly because Matt Carpenter and Daniel Descalso are battling for the second base starting job at the Major League level. Nor is Wong the standout prospect in a camp where Oscar Taveras and Michael Wacha have garnered much of the early attention.

None of this, though, should suggest that Wong has shifted from the foreground. Far from it, actually. As the Cardinals work to identify their season-opening second baseman, Wong continues to showcase himself as an infielder who may not be that far away from pushing on the Major League door.

"You always want to show them that you're working hard, and you want to show them that you're getting better every day," Wong said. "Your main goal is to show them I am getting better. I am learning. I want to become the best player that I can be."

The Cardinals pegged Wong as having the potential to climb quickly through the Minors after they took him out of college in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Thus far, that projection has been accurate.

After a 47-game stint in low A the summer he was drafted, Wong jumped to Double-A in 2012. He hit .287 in 126 games before finishing his season in the Arizona Fall League. He was a standout there, too, batting .324 in 17 games.

The progress sets Wong up to begin the 2013 season in Triple-A, where he'd be in waiting should the Cardinals have a need at the Major League level midseason. After cycling through second basemen in recent years, the Cardinals view Wong as having the potential to provide some much desired long-term stability at the position.

"He's still a young guy, but he has a real nice idea of his swing," manager Mike Matheny said. "Watching him as a defender, I think he's improved tremendously. He just looks like a confident defender now. Everybody has always had a lot of confidence in his bat, now it's just a matter of the whole package. It looks like he's taking strides in that direction."

In addition to becoming a more seasoned defender over the past year, Wong also enters 2013 with a better understanding of what it takes to get through a full professional season. His production stalled late last year, though it was also the first time that Wong had logged that much playing time.

He had only a brief break before heading out to the AFL, where he masked the late-season fatigue quite well. None of this precipitated a change in winter workload, though, as Wong took only about two weeks off after the AFL season before beginning his preparations for 2013.

"I'm not the kind of guy who likes to sit around and take a month," he said. "If you wait too long, you might have to work everything again to get it to where it was. You have to learn how to grind and push through situations [because] you hope that later on you'll be playing for a full season [in the Majors]."

In MLB.com's recent prospect rankings, Wong placed No. 5 in the Cardinals organization. His ceiling may not be as high as some of those who sit ahead of him on the list, but there's more of a certainty in what he'll offer compared to others who are also climbing through the system.

That's why, regardless of the publicity he may or may not get this spring, Wong shouldn't be overlooked. There's real potential that he could be making an impact in St. Louis before year's end.

In Wednesday's game, Wong showed off his power, as he hit a ground-rule RBI double that one-hopped the fence in right-center field. He was 1-for-2 on the day overall.

"When I came in [to camp] last year, I knew a little bit after playing a half season in [low A] Quad Cities," Wong said. "But after playing a full season in Double-A, I learned the game and how to approach it. I'm able to pick up things on the go."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }