I had a chance to see Kolten Wong play live last night in the Arizona Fall League, and I have to say to date he was the most impressive position player I have seen.
I haven't had the chance to see everyone I've wanted to so far, and there's still one team I haven't seen, but at the almost halfway point of the season Wong's the man so far.
Physically, the way he walks, the way he sets when he throws, the way he stands in the batter's box, even the way he tapes both wrists reminds me of a young Carlos Baerga. But what really sealed the Baerga connection for me was Wong's hands.
There were two plays in particular that took me back in the time capsule.
The first was on a short pop fly behind first base. The ball was maybe ten fee from the line, and fifteen feet directly behind first baseman Chris McGuiness, a pretty routine play. Wong was in the area doing what a good player does, provide direction and back-up. At the last minute, McGuiness appeared to lose the ball in the lights, simultaneously losing his balance and falling backwards. Wong picked up the ball and made a juggling basket catch at waist level. What really got me was, with a runner on second, most second baseman (incorrectly) will turn to the glove side, then set their feet for a possible throw back to the infield. Wong correctly turned clockwise to his throwing hand side, which requires him to set his feet first before turning, and also doesn't blind him to the runner.
The second play started off as a routine ground ball. Wong recognized the first hop and set his feet immediately, figuring he'd catch the ball on the second or third hop, waist high on his glove side, and just transfer and throw. Unfortunately, the ball took a bad hop, up and to his right side. Wong shot his glove hand up and over his right shoulder, snagged the ball and flipped to first for the out almost without having to reset his feet.
Offensively, Wong stands with his left foot touching the inside line of the batter's box, with a slightly open and upright stance and his hands high, solid hitting position.
His first AB he lined hard to deep left-center, followed by a swinging strikeout, a solid line single to center, and two 4-3 groundouts.
I don't advocate an open stance for too many reasons that I can list here, and I believe Wong will start getting challenged hard and inside as he progresses. If he expects to match the .287 BA or .753 OPS posted this year in AA he'll have to make some adjustments, both to show he can handle the inside challenges without giving up the outside.
I don't like making comparisons as a rule, especially with a guy who hasn't played a major league game yet, especially to someone who very well may have the best pair of hands for an infielder I've ever seen, but sitting there last night watching Wong I couldn't help but to be reminded of the great, yet unfortunately injury prone Baerga.