It’s not a secret that the Cardinals major league middle infield has been a struggle for them. Last season, they eyed a trade deadline upgrade at shortstop to replace Ryan Therior with Rafael Furcal. This season has seen a revolving door of players at second base including Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, Matt Carpenter and Skip Schumaker. All of those players have their own warts at the position and the Cardinals are most likely still on the lookout for a long term answer at second.
The two most touted prospects for the Cardinals middle infield are Kolten Wong in AA and Ryan Jackson in AAA. How are they doing?
It’s easy to forget just how crazy a season Descalso had back in 2009. Something about Hammons Field agreed with Descalso’s swing — the Springfield ballpark is generally kind to lefties — but combined with an elevated BABIP he just went bananas. Seeing him post well below average offensive marks in the majors isn’t entirely surprising after some tepid Memphis campaigns but it does highlight the absurdity of partial season stats in the minors. Prospects are tricksy things and Descalso’s 2009 stands as exhibit A.
Ryan Jackson hovered around average production (100 wRC+ = average) for 2010 and 2011. In Springfield, he hit for a good average, drew a few walks and had a modest power spike relative to some other stops. Jackson, of course, has consistently earned high marks for his polished defense.
In just his second professional season, Kolten Wong is doing little to disrupt the notion that he’s the Cardinals second baseman of the future. His power output is down from 2011 but overall he’s maintained the ability to make consistent contact with the ball. Setting the line next to Descalso’s 2009 should be a reminder for caution as Wong hasn’t exactly blown anyone out of the water.
Which is, I suppose, why I find Greg Garcia’s line so interesting. Playing shortstop opposite Wong’s second base, Garcia has had an unheralded, but very good, season. He’s walking at rates that would make Matt Carpenter proud while showing enough pop in his bat to mollify most expectations of a middle infielder.
Whether the Cardinals will find a long term middle infielder out of these three is questionable and the stat lines above don’t necessarily elucidate their long term projections. Most report still peg Wong as an everyday second baseman, Ryan Jackson as lacking the hitting chops to play regularly and Greg Garcia is largely lost in the shuffle. I’m a sucker for walks and Garcia’s hitting line this year is better than Wong’s in virtually every way possible. That said, I’d still peg Wong as the everyday player of these three.
Plus, he can do back flips.