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The San Francisco Giants may very well have unearthed a diamond in the rough amid a flurry of roster activity on Tuesday.
Infielder Kean Wong has been extremely productive at the minor league level, but he was buried behind a wealth of middle infield depth in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. The Los Angeles Angels claimed him off waivers on Sept. 24, and now he’s on the move again.
He was claimed off waivers by the Giants on Tuesday in a busy day of transactions:
The younger brother of St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, Kean was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft out of Waiakea High School in Hawaii.
FanGraphs offered up the following scouting report at the start of the 2019 season:
In his second straight year at Triple-A, Wong hit .282/.345/.406 (the highest SLG% of his career, which coincided with a modest-but-relevant 5 percentage point drop in groundball rate) and started seeing action in left field in addition to his usual time at second and third. We don’t think he plays every day, but lefty bats with that kind of positional flexibility are good role players, and Wong is ready for the big leagues right now. The infield situation in Tampa Bay is very crowded and Wong may need a change of scenery to get an opportunity.
The 24-year-old backed up the MLB-ready assessment by hitting .307/.375/.464 with 29 doubles, six triples and 10 home runs in 506 plate appearances during another season at Triple-A Durham.
He finally made his MLB debut on Sept. 5, and he’s ready for an extended look, likely in a super-utility role.
While Donovan Solano was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season, his .409 batting average on balls in play is simply not sustainable, which means some level of regression is forthcoming.
Adding Wong to the mix will provide some welcome competition for a bench spot this spring.
It’s also worth remembering that rosters are expanding to 26 players in 2020, with a limit of 13 pitchers, so a versatile option like Wong could be exactly the type of guy the team opts for to fill the bonus spot.
He’s never going to hit for a ton of extra-base power at the next level and he’s probably best suited for a part-time role, but Kean Wong can make a positive impact for the San Francisco Giants in 2020.