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Brewing Success

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

Former University of Hawaii baseball All-American standout Kolten Wong is now a Milwaukee Brewer after signing a two-year, $18-million contract with the ball club on Feb. 5. The two-time Gold Glove winner and Kamehameha-Hawaii alum spent the previous eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. We scanned a number of baseball sites to get reactions to the signing. What role will Wong play for the Brewers? What are the team’s expectations of him in 2021? Here are some insights:

DAVID STEARNS, BREWERS PRESIDENT OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS: “We are very excited to be able to add Kolten to our organization. This is a player that we know very well. We’ve watched him as much as anyone in baseball outside of his teammates over the last couple of years. We know what he’s capable of. We know what type of energy and character he’s going to bring to our team. And we know we’re adding, in our opinion, the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball. That’s a significant addition to our club. It allows us to formulate what could be one of the premier defensive infields in all of baseball, and really transforms our up-the-middle defense on our club.”

LINDSEY LOBERG, SB NATION: “Even if Wong’s offensive contributions remain modest yet consistent, the Brewers will win more games with him at second base. He’s won the Gold Glove the past 2 seasons, the Fielding Bible award the past 3 seasons, and leads all second basemen with +57 DRS since 2014. He routinely puts up some of the top fielding percentages at second. In 2020, he led the league in assists and double plays. Across 150 games, he’s got +35 DRS over Keston Hiura, who is moving to first to make room for Wong at second. Improving the defense up the middle is a huge benefit for the Brewers, particularly their pitching staff, which has one of the highest ground ball rates in the MLB.”

ADAM McCALVY, MLB.COM: “With Wong, the Brewers could align an infield with [Keston] Hiura and Daniel Vogelbach getting at-bats at first base, Wong at second, Arcia or Luis Urías at shortstop and a question mark still at third. The addition of Wong, coupled with the expected return of Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder Lorenzo Cain after Cain elected not to play in 2020, represents a dramatic upgrade to the Brewers’ up-the-middle defense and bolsters a pitching staff that is arguably the team’s strength after ranking second in the Majors last season in strikeouts per nine innings (10.68) and tying for eighth of 30 teams in WHIP (1.23).”

ANDREW WAGNER, MADISON.COM: “Although Wong isn’t much of a power hitter, he has a .350 career on-base percentage, including a .308 mark in 577 appearances in the leadoff spot. If Wong can maintain his ability to reach base, that will provide more opportunities for sluggers Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura and ultimately help the Brewers improve on the 4.12 runs per game they averaged last season.”

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