The Angels announced Tuesday that they’ve claimed infielder Kean Wong off waivers from the Rays. Wong, the younger brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, was designated for assignment over the weekend. The Angels transferred right-hander Griffin Canning from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list in order to open a spot for Wong on the roster.
Wong, 24, was the Rays’ fourth-round pick back in the 2013 draft and made his MLB debut earlier this month, going 3-for-14 in a six-game cup of coffee. He spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Durham, where he logged his second consecutive above-average season at the plate. After hitting .282/.345/.406 with nine homers, 23 doubles, three triples and seven steals in 2018, Wong turned in a .307/.375/.464 slash with 10 homers, 29 doubles, six triples and six steals in 2019. Offense was elevated throughout the league in Triple-A this season, but Wong’s output checked in at 16 percent better than league average, as measured by wRC+.
While he’s primarily been a second baseman in his minor league career, Wong has begun to see time at third base and in the outfield — mostly the corners but also 24 innings in center — over the past couple of seasons. Defensive versatility is a hallmark of the Rays organization, and familiarizing himself with multiple spots on the diamond obviously increased Wong’s chances of cracking a deep Rays roster. Now, that versatility will help in affording him more opportunities with a new organization.
Wong ranked 40th in an absolutely stacked Rays farm system heading into the season, per Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs. Their scouting report pegs Wong as more of a utility option than an everyday player, but he’ll aim to prove himself capable of handling a prominent role with the club over the next few days and possibly next spring, if he survives the offseason on the Angels’ 40-man roster. The Angels control Tommy La Stella for another season and also have Zack Cozart under contract through the 2020 campaign. But La Stella might not make it back to the field in 2019 after suffering a fractured tibia in early July, and Cozart’s Angels tenure has been absolutely decimated by injuries of his own
Younger options like David Fletcher and Matt Thaiss have seen action at second and third in lieu of those injured veterans, but Wong would add another versatile candidate to the mix for playing time. As somewhat of a bonus, he brings a left-handed bat to an Angels roster where the majority of the team’s regulars hit from the right side. Wong’s contract was selected to the MLB roster for the first time earlier this month, meaning he’ll have all three of his minor league option years remaining beyond the 2019 season.