COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals' farm system is chock-full of young pitching prospects that are major league-ready, as proof by the successful big-league debuts of lower-tier prospects such as John Gast and Tyler Lyons already this season. The arms throughout the Cardinals minor-league system are fully stocked and loaded, armed with helping the Cardinals in a variety of ways.
When it comes to position players, the Cardinals are not as fortunate when it comes to high-level prospects. Obviously, Oscar Taveras is a legit stud, but Kolten Wong figures to be the only other prospect in the system ready to make an impact in the short-term.
Many believe that Taveras will arrive in St. Louis later this season. But the crystal ball is a bit murky as to when Wong will bust on to the scene, even though he has answered the challenge once again this season with Memphis, his first at the Triple-A level.
Wong, who is hitting a robust .337 with four homers, 18 RBIs and seven stolen bases, will likely stay in Memphis much of 2013 and there are many pros and cons that come along with keeping a high performer like Wong in the minors this season.
Pro: Wong can get everyday playing time at second base with Memphis
If called up, Wong would likely be asked to split time at second base with Matt Carpenter. While that would figure to give the Cardinals a nice situation at second base, Wong needs to receive regular playing time in order to continue to advance his development.
Speaking of Wong's development, it is coming along nicely. Not only is he hitting for a high average, but his OPS of .887 is outstanding, showing that he is getting on base and driving the ball with impact regularly. The 22-year-old out of Hawaii has 11 doubles and five triples in 44 games with Memphis this season.
Con: Wong's glove is the best in the organization at second base
While Wong's bat has been superb in Triple-A this season, his glove has been every bit as good. Wong has just three errors in 214 chances this season, has helped turn 22 double plays, and his 5.02 range factor proves that he is covering a lot of ground, too.
Carpenter has done a nice job defensively for the Cardinals at second base, but there is no question that Wong would be an upgrade defensively if promoted. Leaving him in Memphis would cost the Cardinals an opportunity at upgrading defensively
Pro: Matt Carpenter will continue to play every day
As mentioned, if Wong is promoted, he would likely take playing time away from Carpenter. Since Wong will not be brought to St. Louis anytime soon, that is a positive because it keeps Carpenter's bat at the top of the Cardinals' lineup.
Carpenter is excelling as the Cardinals' leadoff hitter. As of May 28, Carpenter is hitting .303 on the season, but, most important, he has drawn 25 walks and has an excellent .388 on-base percentage, setting the table for Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran.
Carpenter needs to be in the lineup every day at this point for the Cardinals and avoiding a situation where there is a chance to take at-bats away from Carpenter would make sense. Unless David Freese continues to struggle at third base or goes down to injury, the Cardinals are better off just letting Carpenter play second, even if Wong is better defensively.
Con: Wong's speed could add an element missing from the Cardinals' offensive attack
One facet that the Cardinals' offensive attack is missing is speed, something Wong has plenty of. Wong has swiped seven bases so far in Triple-A. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have stolen just 14 bases total as a team, with Yadier Molina, Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson leading the way with three apiece.
Promoting Wong could certainly add another dimension to the Cardinals' offensive attack.
Pro: Wong's "arbitration clock" won't start until later
Much is always made of the dreaded arbitration clock, and keeping Wong in the minors for as long as possible will delay his from starting. This means the Cardinals will be able to keep at cost-controlled levels for a longer period of time, which down the road can only help as Wong continues to develop into possibly one of the better second baseman in the National League.
Con: The Cardinals' bench will continue to lack impact bats
While promoting Wong would limit his playing time and bump Carpenter to the bench on occasion, it would also provide the Cardinals with more offensive depth, something this team is lacking. If Wong were on the Cardinals' roster, the bench certainly would be stronger one way or the other.
Instead, the Cardinals will need to continue to rely upon Descalso, Robinson, Ty Wigginton, Tony Cruz and Matt Adams in pinch-hitting situations late in games.
Overall, having Wong play so well down in Triple-A is a good problem for the Cardinals to have. He clearly has adjusted to the tougher competition at Memphis and is already knocking on the door and ready for his call-up to St. Louis.
Leaving him down in Memphis for now is probably the most prudent move, but it sure would be fun to have the luxury and capacity to call him up and see what he can do at the major-league level sooner rather than later.
You can follow Rudd on Twitter @CoreyRudd.
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