There is a stigma in the MLB Draft against high school second baseman. Even though most high school shortstop end up moving off the position, with many of them ending up at second base, calling a player a second baseman from the start is limiting his potential and makes you wonder whether he could fall even further down the defensive spectrum to third base or a corner outfield spot. But in the case of Waiakea High School second baseman Kean Wong, the Rays couldn’t care less. They know he can hit, and they’ll about everything else later.
Wong isn’t just a second baseman, but one that isn’t particularly toolsy or athletic at 5’11″, 190. He has below-average speed, although he has the ability to stick at second base thanks to great instincts. But that’s where the criticism ends and the praise begins. Wong, the younger brother off Cardinals top second base prospect Kolten Wong, shares his brother’s talent at the plate, and may even be a touch better in the power department. Wong has a short, compact stroke at the plate, but don’t hear that along with his size and think he’s a little tap hitter. He shows excellent bat speed, doing a great job to barrel the ball and smack line drives to all fields. He has mostly a gap-to-gap approach right now, but he actually has his moments where he hits for some power, something that the Rays will look to hone once they get him signed. When it’s all said and done, Wong could be a very good hitter for average who shows good power for a second baseman as well. And his chances to get there might be quite a bit higher than your average high school pick because he shows very good pitch recognition and plate discipline for a high school player. He uses his patience to help him find good pitches to hit, and as he learns to pick his spots to drive the ball, that’s when you’ll see the power. Wong is an advanced hitter with a chance to be in the major leagues in three or four years if everything goes well.
Defensively, Wong has the ability to be at least an average second baseman, but playing him there would mean not getting full use out of his strong arm. That seems pretty irrelevant because Wong can’t play shortstop and doesn’t hit for enough power to profile at third base. But Wong actually has some dabbled in some catching, and that might be a possibility moving forward. He has the type of strong, durable frame that you want from a catcher to go along with the arm strength, and there could be some potential there, especially when factoring in his hitting. On the other hand, trying him at catcher would substantially slow his rise to the major leagues and the fact that the Rays listed him as a second baseman hints that they’re really drafting him for his bat. Wong has the ability to be an above-average as an offensive-minded second baseman and make an impact in the Rays’ lineup before long. He doesn’t have quite the potential of his older brother, but it was special for the Rays to find a polished offensive player who could move quickly way down in the 4th round. Who cares if he’s a second baseman as opposed to a shortstop if he can really hit?