Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
With a strong track record of rookies delivering on their promise in St. Louis, the Cardinals look to Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras to be the latest rookie cogs in their winning machine.
Wong inherited second base after the Redbirds shipped David Freese to Anaheim, sliding Matt Carpenter to third. Wong flopped in his cup of coffee in 2013 and had the dubious distinction of getting picked off first to end Game 4 of the World Series.
The former University of Hawaii star can shake off that embarrassing moment by providing the top-notch defense that had him voted as the premier defensive second basemen in the Pacific Coast League, as well as some much-needed speed to a usually dormant Cards running game. Wong does a little bit of everything offensively, as evidence by a .303/.369/.466 line in Triple-A Memphis to go along with 10 homers, 45 RBI and 20 steals.
Extended struggles from Wong would give more playing time to veteran Mark Ellis, signed partly as insurance but mostly as a right-handed platoon complement to Wong.
Taveras certainly would’ve made his debut in St. Louis in 2013 had he not suffered an ankle injury that ultimately led to surgery, cutting short his Triple-A season to just 46 games.
“I feel 100 percent," Taveras told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com in January. “In Spring Training, I hope to get stronger and be back with the team.”
The Cardinals don’t need Taveras, ranked No. 3 in MLB.com’s top 100 prospect’s list, to make the team out of spring training. Not with Allen Craig manning right field and newly acquired Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay battling over playing time in center.
But Taveras could push his way onto the Opening Day roster with a healthy, strong showing in Jupiter. And if he can handle center field on even a part-time basis, he’ll get 300 at-bats and provide a lethal option off the bench.