Matt Wieters This Year

Peter Bendix took a look at Matt Wieters back in November and came away concluding that Wieters could be Joe Mauer with more power. Those are some pretty lofty expectations. David Golebiewski briefly discussed his AA exploits last month. Now that pretty much all of the projection systems have come out, I think it is a pretty good time to revisit the prospect that has more words written about him than any in recent memory.

Mock Draft Central has the three top catchers (Brian McCann, Russell Martin, and Mauer) checking in between picks 45-50 in their recent drafts. Giovanni Soto is next at about the 65th pick. Matt Wieters is not in the top 75. What can we expect from Wieters? Well, the projections have quite a range. CHONE has him pegged for .274/.352/.439/.791 with 15 HRs in 115 games. They project him to have the 10th best OPS and tied for the 5th best HR total. This is the low-end projections. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the PECOTA projection. He rates as the best catcher in baseball according to PECOTA. His line is .311/.395/.544/.939 with 31 HR and 100+ RBIs and runs. Bill James’ and Oliver lie in between the two extremes. At worst it seems he will be a top 5 offensive catcher next year.

The bigger concern with Wieters is playing time. When will he see the bigs? In front of Wieters is the career backup/part-time option of Greg Zaun. I have a hard time believing that Zaun will hold Wieters off the position, and there is little doubt in my mind that Wieters will perform well enough to warrant a call. I imagine the only thing really holding Wieters back is money. Figuring that the Orioles do not stand a chance to contend this year in the stacked AL East, the O’s may be wise to hold him back to delay his arbitration clock. If attendance starts to wane, then the O’s may be wise to bring up the young stud to put butts in the seat. Seemingly, there is no way they hold him in the minors past June.

When he comes up, he will immediately be at worst one of the better offensive catchers. Most people seem to think, though, that he will be a force. Come summer you will be very, very glad you overdrafted for Wieters. In keeper leagues, he may be one of the best picks made in your draft, similar to Longoria last year. I know I plan on reaching for Wieters in most drafts and then depend on one of the catchers off the trash heap to man the position for a month or two.

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11 Responses to “Matt Wieters This Year”

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  1. Luis says:

    I play in a dynasty league and drafted Wieters with the 2nd pick overall in our draft (I was in rebuilding mode). I then drafted Yad Molina later on. Needless to say I can’t wait for him to get called up. I’m not holding my breath, but it would be great to see him get the job out of spring training.

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  2. KowboyKoop says:

    Good thing everyone isn’t massively overhpying this kid or anything. He’ll probably struggle at some point next year and then the “bust” talk will start up. Can’t wait for that. Same thing with Alex Gordon…he has a 110 OPS+ as a 24 year old and is considered a big disappointment b/c the “experts” have him as the next George Brett with more power immediately upon entering the league.

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    • Clayton says:

      Over-exposure is going to ruin professional sports. The 24-hour networks dilute their analysis in an effort to fill their programming. Now that newspapers are online, speed is more important than accuracy or thought, which leads to the publication of knee-jerk reactions. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a blog where they use half-truths and poorly interpreted statistics to make assumptions that may or may not be valid. Fantasy baseball has caused fans to overestimate the real-life value of some players while grossly underestimating the value of others. If you say, read, or hear something enough, though, it eventually becomes true in the court of public opinion.

      I’m not sure that any real experts think Gordon is a disappointment. The elite tools are still there, but he’s had problems because of his approach. That’s fixable, and it may be fixed as we speak. Relatively speaking, Gordon is accomplished for a player his age. The overexposure and opinions from pseudo-experts, however, create the illusion that Gordon is an underachiever. That’s fine by me. I’ll watch my fantasy league mates reach year after year for the next big (unproven) thing while the unappreciated veterans and “post-hype” sleepers fall into my lap during the later rounds.

      Will Wieters be a great player? Almost positively. However, one cannot expect veteran production from a rookie player. If you do, you’re likely setting yourself up for disappointment. There are exceptions to the rule, but would you pull up a seat at the roulette table and put your 401k on 7? You may hit it big, but you’re probably better off making a safer bet.

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  3. David says:

    KowboyKoop – Just because we have huge expectations for a player doesn’t mean we’re automatically overhyping him. For every Alex Gordon and Jay Bruce, there is an Evan Longoria and a Ryan Braun. All we’re doing is believing what the computers and the scouts tell us. Should we stop being excited about prospects because the projections have sometimes been wrong in the past?

    As an Orioles fan, I’m not banking my mortgage that Wieters will succeed or anything. There’s just not too much to be excited about (our starting LF having an OPS above 750 is considered a success around here), so when we finally get a top prospect who seems to be worth something (Matusz doesn’t seem half bad either, for that matter).

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    • Jim says:

      I would definitely not say Jay Bruce’s debut was a disappointment. His average was a little on the low side, but he still mashed at a pretty good clip.

      I agree with you about Wieters though. Comparing the chances of him hitting well to the chances of hitting 7 on a Roulette table is just crazy.

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      • Clayton says:

        Come on, Jim. Hyperbole is what all the cool journalists do these days.

        As I said, he will almost positively be a great player. That will probably happen as early as this season. However, strictly in terms of fantasy, I would prefer an established player over upside in the range where I’ve seen Wieters taken in some mock drafts I’ve participated in. Get him in the 13th? That may qualify as a steal. Get him in the 10th? I can live with that. Reach for him in the 6th, immediately after Soto is selected? I think you need to temper your expectations. Regardless of what his limited minor league numbers, scouting reports, or college statistics say, he’s never had an MLB at-bat. There’s more uncertainty there than people want to admit.

        Bruce’s debut wasn’t a disappointment. With 450 ABs, one 2008 projection that will remain unnamed had him at around 18 HR and 8 SB with a .276/.345/.487 line. His actual .254/.314/.453 line with 21 HR and 4 SB wasn’t too far off that. That’s very respectable for a 21 year-old in his first MLB season. Gordon is still under 25, spent zero time in AAA, and hits in a weak lineup. He improved last season, and I’d be hard pressed to call him a disappointment. Both of these guys are playing over replacement level. Are they stars? No, not yet. Honestly, though, how many elite hitting prospects put up career peak numbers in their first major league season?

        The Brauns and Longorias are exception, not the rule. If you continually buy into hype and reach for players who’ve never had a MLB at-bat, you’re going to lose more often than not.

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  4. j36t says:

    .254/.314/.453 is only “very respectable” for a 21 year old in MLB? How many 21 year olds even SNIFF the major leagues much less hit 20 bombs in a little more than a half of a season? Most GOOD 21 year old prospects are tearing up the Southeast Conference with an aluminum bat, torching A+, or holding their own in AA. To do what Bruce did at 21 at the MLB level was fantastic.

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  5. j36t says:

    Hey Clayton-

    Not looking for an argument. Just thought it was odd that after quipping about journalists and hyberbole (with which I agree by the way), you go very much the other direction with Bruce – quite the understatement I would say, maybe as much of an understatement as those journalists’ overstatements about the probabilities of Weiters dominating American League this year.

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  6. Slap says:

    I like Weiters in redrafts this year, if you can get him late enough, which is generally about round 15 in a ten team league. That’s the range where I was able to grab Soto more than once last year. The problem with rookie catchers is they have so much to learn and absorb besides just hitting.

    I think the main concern about Alex Gordon is his continued struggles against LHP. His OPS against LHP actually declined in 2008. He was at .686 as a rookie and .629 last year.

    He gave away over 100 points off his slugging percentage against LHP, but he improved his K/BB ratio to 18/41, after a miserable 7/35 mark as a rookie.

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