St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong vs. Breyvic Valera

Prior to the 2016 season, the St. Louis Cardinals provided their young second baseman a lengthy extension but someone new is knocking on the door.  Does this mean that his time is running out?

The St. Louis Cardinals awarded Kolten Wong with a five-year extension at the start of the 2016 season worth $25.5MM.  This was an indication of the belief that the organization held in the young second baseman.  Then, the wheels fell off and manager Mike Matheny did not provide playing time to Wong.

In defense of this decision, Wong did go into a strong slump in the 2016 season.  Rest is often a solution to a slump but only if regular playing time follows the rest.  This was not the case with Wong in 2016.

To address this, the organization send Wong to Memphis to learn to hit again and to learn a new position.  In Memphis, Wong found his bat once more and learned to play center field as the organization was working to find a way to keep value in their extension.  Could Wong solve the slumping center field that befell the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals?

This question would go somewhat unanswered as Matheny again refused to offer regular enough playing time to provide time to answer the said question.  Oh, and there was that one time when Wong face-planted in left field…

All of this is to say that 2017 could be a crossroads for Kolten: will Matheny play him regularly at second base, will Matheny experiment with him in the outfield, or will he maintain his slump thanks to irregular playing time?  These questions are all made even more complicated by the addition to the 40-man roster in the form of Breyvic Valera.

Let’s take a moment to compare these two youngsters; Wong is twenty-six and Valera is twenty-four.  These are Wong’s career offensive numbers:

Year Age Tm Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 20 Quad Cities A 47 194 39 65 15 2 5 25 9 5 21 24 .335 .401 .510 .911
2012 21 Springfield AA 126 523 79 150 23 6 9 52 21 11 44 74 .287 .348 .405 .754
2012 21 Surprise Fal 17 74 12 24 2 0 1 12 5 3 2 11 .324 .342 .392 .734
2013 22 Memphis AAA 107 412 68 125 21 8 10 45 20 1 41 60 .303 .369 .466 .835
2013 22 STL MLB 32 59 6 9 1 0 0 0 3 0 3 12 .153 .194 .169 .363
2014 23 Memphis AAA 18 75 16 27 4 0 3 13 6 0 5 9 .360 .400 .533 .933
2014 23 STL MLB 113 402 52 100 14 3 12 42 20 4 21 71 .249 .292 .388 .680
2015 24 STL MLB 150 557 71 146 28 4 11 61 15 8 36 95 .262 .321 .386 .707
2016 25 Memphis AAA 7 28 10 12 0 1 4 11 1 0 4 6 .429 .529 .929 1.458
2016 25 STL MLB 121 313 39 75 7 7 5 23 7 0 34 52 .240 .327 .355 .682
MLB (4 seasons) MLB 416 1331 168 330 50 14 28 126 45 12 94 230 .248 .309 .370 .678
Minors (5 seasons) Minors 305 1232 212 379 63 17 31 146 57 17 115 173 .308 .371 .462 .833
All Levels (6 Seasons) 738 2637 392 733 115 31 60 284 107 32 211 414 .278 .339 .413 .752
AAA (3 seasons) Minors 132 515 94 164 25 9 17 69 27 1 50 75 .318 .383 .501 .884
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2016.

While it is not an exact apples-to-apples comparison, these are Valera’s career offensive numbers:

Year Age Tm Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 18 Cardinals FRk 60 212 40 69 16 6 1 22 10 3 24 15 .325 .402 .472 .873
2011 19 2 Teams Rk 47 183 39 57 9 3 1 21 14 6 15 26 .311 .368 .410 .777
2011 19 Cardinals Rk 28 110 23 28 5 2 1 13 7 1 10 17 .255 .328 .364 .692
2011 19 Johnson City Rk 19 73 16 29 4 1 0 8 7 5 5 9 .397 .430 .479 .910
2012 20 2 Teams A–AA 72 287 41 90 18 4 1 34 10 6 18 27 .314 .356 .415 .771
2012 20 Batavia A- 69 282 39 89 18 4 1 33 10 6 18 27 .316 .359 .418 .777
2012 20 Springfield AA 3 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400
2012 20 Margarita FgW 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 21 Peoria A 128 515 71 159 18 6 0 48 13 7 40 30 .309 .358 .367 .725
2013 21 Margarita FgW 60 202 26 55 5 7 0 17 6 5 15 18 .272 .318 .366 .685
2014 22 2 Teams A+-AA 132 521 66 163 16 6 0 57 17 15 40 35 .313 .361 .367 .728
2014 22 Palm Beach A+ 73 294 35 98 8 4 0 37 13 10 25 13 .333 .385 .388 .773
2014 22 Springfield AA 59 227 31 65 8 2 0 20 4 5 15 22 .286 .329 .339 .668
2014 22 Peoria Fal 12 39 5 13 1 0 0 5 3 2 5 3 .333 .400 .359 .759
2014 22 Margarita FgW 23 95 18 31 6 0 0 12 4 2 8 9 .326 .385 .389 .774
2015 23 2 Teams AA-A+ 119 411 46 103 12 3 3 38 2 7 45 29 .251 .323 .316 .640
2015 23 Palm Beach A+ 14 51 9 18 3 1 0 7 0 3 11 2 .353 .468 .451 .919
2015 23 Springfield AA 105 360 37 85 9 2 3 31 2 4 34 27 .236 .301 .297 .598
Year Age Tm Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2015 23 Margarita FgW 60 212 31 62 9 4 2 20 8 13 30 12 .292 .381 .401 .782
2016 24 2 Teams AAA-AA 125 395 48 120 19 2 0 43 11 5 40 40 .304 .363 .362 .725
2016 24 Springfield AA 52 178 16 46 5 1 0 12 3 1 9 18 .258 .289 .298 .587
2016 24 Memphis AAA 73 217 32 74 14 1 0 31 8 4 31 22 .341 .417 .415 .832
Minors (7 seasons) Minors 683 2524 351 761 108 30 6 263 77 49 222 202 .302 .358 .375 .733
Foreign (4 seasons) Foreign 144 509 76 148 20 11 2 49 18 20 53 39 .291 .357 .385 .742
All Levels (7 Seasons) 839 3072 432 922 129 41 8 317 98 71 280 244 .300 .358 .377 .735
Rk (1 season) Minors 47 183 39 57 9 3 1 21 14 6 15 26 .311 .368 .410 .777
A+ (2 seasons) Minors 87 345 44 116 11 5 0 44 13 13 36 15 .336 .398 .397 .796
AA (4 seasons) Minors 219 770 86 197 22 5 3 64 9 10 58 67 .256 .306 .309 .615
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2016.

Anyone other than me notice the similarities?  To add insult to injury (against Wong, in favor of Valera), Valera has batted .379/.440/.634 in the Venezuelan league this winter.  In these he has smashed nine doubles, five triples, six home runs, and has accounted for twenty RBI.

Of even more important note to the St. Louis Cardinals is Valera’s speed.  In winter ball, Breyvic has stolen eight bases and been caught stealing five times.  Even the caught stealing is an improvement for a 2016 St. Louis Cardinals team that was stagnant on the base pads.

Let’s take a look at Wong vs. Valera defensively.  These are Wong’s defensive numbers (abbreviated to show 2016 only plus aggregates):

Year Age Tm Lev G Inn Ch PO A E DP Fld% RF/9 RF/G
2016 25 Memphis AAA 2B 4 37.0 15 5 10 0 1 1.000 3.65 3.75
2016 25 Memphis AAA CF 3 28.0 4 3 1 0 0 1.000 1.29 1.33
2016 25 Memphis AAA OF 3 28.0 4 3 1 0 0 1.000 1.29 1.33
2016 25 STL MLB 2B 88 635.1 396 132 256 8 67 .980 5.50 4.41
2016 25 STL MLB CF 8 62.0 16 16 0 0 0 1.000 2.32 2.00
2016 25 STL MLB LF 6 35.0 7 7 0 0 0 1.000 1.80 1.17
2016 25 STL MLB OF 16 106.0 26 26 0 0 0 1.000 2.21 1.63
2016 25 STL MLB RF 4 9.0 3 3 0 0 0 1.000 3.00 0.75
MLB (4 seasons) MLB 2B 360 2912.0 1681 662 982 37 252 .978 5.08 4.57
Minors (5 seasons) Minors 2B 293 2522.2 1500 590 869 41 202 .973 5.21 4.98
All Levels (6 Seasons) 2B 670 5434.2 3181 1252 1851 78 454
All Levels (1 Season) CF 11 90.0 20 19 1 0 0 1.000 2.00 1.82
All Levels (1 Season) OF 19 134.0 30 29 1 0 0 1.000 2.01 1.58
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2016.

These are Breyvic’s defensive numbers (abbreviated to show 2016 only plus aggregates):

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G Inn Ch PO A E DP Fld% RF/9 RF/G
2016 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA STL 2B 47 328.0 186 82 101 3 30 .984 5.02 3.89
2016 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA STL LF 8 54.0 6 6 0 0 0 1.000 1.00 0.75
2016 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA STL OF 23 165.0 30 30 0 0 0 1.000 1.64 1.30
2016 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA STL SS 41 283.1 156 45 102 9 16 .942 4.67 3.59
2016 24 Springfield TL AA STL 2B 15 110.0 64 28 34 2 9 .969 5.07 4.13
2016 24 Springfield TL AA STL CF 2 7.0 1 1 0 0 0 1.000 1.29 0.50
2016 24 Springfield TL AA STL LF 3 18.0 1 1 0 0 0 1.000 0.50 0.33
2016 24 Springfield TL AA STL OF 18 129.0 25 25 0 0 0 1.000 1.74 1.39
2016 24 Springfield TL AA STL RF 13 104.0 23 23 0 0 0 1.000 1.99 1.77
2016 24 Springfield TL AA STL SS 26 179.1 95 28 62 5 8 .947 4.52 3.46
2016 24 Memphis PCL AAA STL 2B 32 218.0 122 54 67 1 21 .992 5.00 3.78
2016 24 Memphis PCL AAA STL 3B 21 138.2 41 9 31 1 4 .976 2.60 1.90
2016 24 Memphis PCL AAA STL LF 5 36.0 5 5 0 0 0 1.000 1.25 1.00
2016 24 Memphis PCL AAA STL OF 5 36.0 5 5 0 0 0 1.000 1.25 1.00
2016 24 Memphis PCL AAA STL SS 15 104.0 61 17 40 4 8 .934 4.93 3.80
Minors (7 seasons) Minors 2B 366 3033.2 1671 673 956 42 244 .975 4.83 4.45
Minors (7 seasons) Minors 3B 63 428.2 148 40 100 8 12 .946 2.94 2.22
Minors (3 seasons) Minors CF 10 54.0 14 13 0 1 0 .929 2.17 1.30
Minors (7 seasons) Minors LF 85 708.2 140 127 8 5 1 .964 1.71 1.59
Minors (1 season) Minors OF 23 165.0 30 30 0 0 0 1.000 1.64 1.30
Minors (3 seasons) Minors RF 29 239.2 46 41 5 0 0 1.000 1.73 1.59
Minors (7 seasons) Minors SS 121 924.1 507 149 324 34 58 .933 4.61 3.91
Foreign (3 seasons) Foreign 2B 32 173.2 121 44 75 2 26 .983 6.12 3.72
Foreign (3 seasons) Foreign CF 46 242.2 104 94 6 4 2 .962 2.60 2.17
Foreign (2 seasons) Foreign LF 50 46.1 90 83 5 2 2 .978 1.75 1.76
Foreign (2 seasons) Foreign RF 5 20.0 8 6 1 1 0 .875 3.15 1.40
Foreign (2 seasons) Foreign SS 6 39.0 38 11 23 4 6
All Levels (7 Seasons) 2B 405 3259.1 1828 733 1051 44 277 .976 4.92 4.40
All Levels (7 Seasons) 3B 90 648.2 228 58 158 12 18 .947 3.00 2.40
All Levels (5 Seasons) CF 56 296.2 118 107 6 5 2 .958 2.52 2.02
All Levels (7 Seasons) LF 135 755.0 230 210 13 7 3 .970 1.72 1.65
All Levels (1 Season) OF 23 165.0 30 30 0 0 0 1.000 1.64 1.30
All Levels (3 Seasons) RF 34 259.2 54 47 6 1 0 .981 1.84 1.56
All Levels (7 Seasons) SS 127 963.1 545 160 347 38 64
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2016.

The similarities continue but Valera shows a wider range of abilities and utilities.

These are the questions that surround these two players for me:

  • Is one more valuable than the other?  It certainly appears that Valera may hold greater worth and at much less a cost.  That said, Wong is MLB-proven-ready and that carries greater worth to other teams.  Monetarily speaking, Wong is owed $2.5M in 2017 while Valera is under a minor league contract at the league minimum.
  • Should the St. Louis Cardinals shop Wong then and keep Valera as their second baseman?  I believe that this would be a little premature at this point.  Having said that, though, it would not surprise me to see Valera climb to the majors by the trade deadline after (1) he has showed his abilities in Memphis for the first half, and (2) after Wong has increased his value in the first half.
  • Which of these two will be the second baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018? If I had to choose only one of these two, I would more likely lean toward Valera serving in this role.  Having said that, however, I’m not sold that Valera is a “true” second baseman but might hold more worth as a super utility guy.

All of these questions aside, you must admit that the stats are eerily similar and that this might well spell the end of tenure for Kolten Wong.  I would not be sad if the ilk of Valera were to replace the ilk of Wong.

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I love watching the Memphis Redbirds play and knowing that a rising star such as Breyvic Valera, now protected on the 40-man roster, will play for his chance to break into the majors makes me even more excited for 2017.  Come on, Spring!

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