Maturation of Matt Wieters
The Orioles 2011 season, in most people’s opinions, has not lived up to expectations here in Baltimore. There have been some bright spots however. One player was highlighted in a previous post of mine; shortstop, J.J. Hardy. Another thing to be proud of is the performance put forth by center fielder, Adam Jones. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his most productive statistical season offensively since he debuted in the majors. The biggest positive sign moving forward in my opinion is what we are seeing from Matt Wieters.
Wieters has passed the 20 homerun plateau for the first time in his young career. Defensively, he has been nothing but spectacular. Matt has all but eliminated the running game, while calling a good game as well. It is easy to see that he not only seems comfortable out there, but that he is coming into his own as a major leaguer. I may not have any positive reactions for this, but I was on my way to labeling Wieters another Orioles bust. He was drafted and he debuted with TONS of fanfare. Originally, those expectations, namely the nickname “Mauer with power”, seemed to be too lofty. That, coupled with the fact that the Orioles haven’t exactly developed young positional talent in the organization lately, had me writing him off already.
As the season continued, Wieters began hitting with more authority. He has a career high in homeruns and RBIs this year, while only 25 years old. For all you stats guys, his SLG (slugging percentage) is at a career high as well. He was also named an All-Star for the first time in 2011.
Now, I want to go back to the nickname. Every catcher minus say, Brian McCann of Atlanta, is automatically measured against Joe Mauer. Those comparisons are not without merit, as when he’s healthy, Mauer is the best overall pure catcher in the game. Joe hits for average, drives runs in, is great defensively, and has those intangibles that all the scouts look for. In short, he’s a winning player who plays the game the right way. What some casual fans may not realize though, is that Joe Mauer has been a bit injury prone throughout his career. Furthermore, if you take out his MVP year of 2009, Mauer has NEVER and I repeat NEVER hit 20 homeruns or more in a season. There are two ways to look at that. One way of reasoning is that power can develop late, especially for a catcher, since he has so many other parts of the game he has to focus on. Theory number two is that he just got lucky with his power in 09. In my opinion (while I’m no scout), Mauer is a singles and doubles hitter with gap power. He gets timely hits and will always hit for a high average. Nonetheless, the Mauer portion of this post is done.
With all that said, I put the option in your hands. You, the readers, hold the power here. Certainly, Matt Wieters has not approached or eclipsed “you know who” quite yet, but he is certainly making strides. Wieters will only get better as his major league experience grows. From what I have seen this year, I fully believe that Wieters can be a perennial All-Star caliber player in this game for years to come. He still has some things to work on (average, RBIs), but they will come. I am officially back on the Wieters bandwagon! Best part is, unlike the Twins, our great catcher is a LOT cheaper. Till next time, root on the Orioles in these last few games as they are on a quest for ruin Boston’s playoff hopes! Here’s to a great end in 2011!