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Scouting Update: Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii (2011 Draft)

March 7, 2011

When a guy with five tools who plays in Hawaii gets to the mainland and so close to the airport that you hear the jets taking off, you can be sure to see a ton of scouts in town.

Another thing that amuses me is the notion that somehow, the guy is hidden because he plays in Hawaii. Really? Where were you during the Cape? If people asked me what do you think of this guy, I’d say, want to see what a first rounder looks like?  

In a draft where multi-tool position players are hard to come by, Kolten Wong is a rarity – a left-handed hitting second baseman with plus offensive potential. Don’t let the body fool you. The former high school running back has a low center of gravity and is powerfully built through the shoulders, hips and thighs. But that doesn’t make him stiff. Wong has a very live body, which he shows if you keep your eyes open.

To begin with, Wong is a gunshot guy. Readers here know that I’m borrowing Bob Zuk’s term for a guy who makes consistently hard contact. Wong hits out of a spread stance with a slight bend, but don’t be fooled by the flat bat on the shoulder. That’s a cheating device for many guys, not for Wong. His hands are his greatest gift and he almost always trusts them. The gunshot sound at contact comes from exceptional fast-twitch muscles through his fingers, hands, wrists and forearms. Wong’s bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time – it gets there early, takes its shoes off and has a drink – and then finishes with an aggressive uppercut. His power is geared to pull and he’s a straight-away hitter. He’ll have gap power, but if you go middle-in, he can take you out of the park. His swing is easy, effortless, powerful and natural. When I say I scout for that which I cannot give a guy, here is what I mean. I can’t make a guy a hitter. He is or he isn’t.

In the game, Wong pulled a hard single to right field and also hit a hard line drive to center field. Typical Wong. I saw him adjust against left-handed pitching. When Wong advances into pro ball, I expect the world to pitch him away, but Wong isn’t just a toolsy guy with bat speed. There is bat control here, but he’s yet to face the competition level that will show what kind of power he has to left field.

He’s a solid 5 runner from the left side and should have the base running times, jumps and instincts to go for between 10-20 stolen bases at the big league level. His arm is a solid 5 at second, throws with carry, accuracy and authority. His fielding for me is a solid 5 with flashes to 6 or 7, that one clank job off his palm not withstanding. He made up for it later by charging a ball from normal depth, bare-handing a ball on the run, and flipping to first for the out basically while in mid air. Why, for a second there, I thought I was watching Jack Wilson.

You have to look hard for a weakness, and the only deficiency you can really find with Wong is range. He’s got enough to go right at second, but I think the former catcher and center fielder is in just the right spot. He’s got 5 range at second and 4 range at short, which means in the big leagues, it’s second base.

Overall, this is a guy who is going to be fairly close to the big leagues after he signs. He needs to play every day, and in my experience, that’s the real difference maker for future major league starting position players.

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