To answer the headline’s question, a Wieters is numerus ûnus catcherus prospectus… or in a language that is understandable by the rest of humankind: the number one catching prospect (if not the No. 1 prospect generally speaking) in all of Major League Baseball.
In case you haven’t heard, the Baltimore Orioles organization has promoted catcher Matt Wieters to the Majors and he is expected to make his long-awaited Major League debut tonight against the Detroit Tigers. The switch-hitting catcher’s promotion has been the most anticipated call-up of the season (with apologies to David Price, who actually debuted last year).
Selected fifth overall in the 2007 amateur draft out of Georgia Tech University, the talented backstop was in the mix to go No. 1 overall (Price was nabbed there by Tampa Bay instead) but his price tag and advisor (Mr. Scott Boras, come on down…) scared away the first four clubs in the draft. Probably no other club (and fan base) is more upset over the decision to pass on The Wieters than the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, which chose fourth and took college left-handed reliever Daniel Moskos out of Clemson University.
The Pirates converted Moskos into a starting pitcher, watched him post a 5.95 ERA and then threatened to send him back to the ‘pen. In 2009, as Wieters prepares to don his catching gear for his MLB debut, Moskos is struggling in double-A with a 4.53 ERA in nine games. He’s allowed 51 hits in 45.2 innings of work and he’s struck out just 17 batters… which is a dismally-bad 3.35 K/9. There had best be a blackout in the Pittsburgh area tonight for the Orioles’ broadcast on MLB.com. It could get ugly… and very, very depressing.
Anyway, back to happier thoughts. For Orioles fans, Wieters represents another cog in what should be a very good Orioles team over the next decade. Along with the new catcher, the club also has some impressive outfielders including Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold (and some guy named Felix Pie, if he ever realizes his potential). Second baseman Brian Roberts is a great veteran leader, and he’s still only 31 years old.
Within the next year, the club’s brutal pitching staff should receive help from a trio of talented starters: RHP Chris Tillman, LHP Brian Matusz, and RHP Jake Arrieta. RHP David Hernandez just had his solid MLB debut last night, and appears to have the potential to be a good No. 4 starter. And RHP Brandon Erbe should not be forgotten about, either.
Much like Wieters, don’t expect miracles with the club overnight. He is not going to instantly transform the club into a winner – and he’s probably not going to pull an Albert Pujols and become the best hitter in baseball within the first week of his career. Wieters, though, does have an outside shot at winning the American League Rookie of the Year award, if he can put up half decent numbers. The current race leader is probably Detroit’s Rick Porcello (whom, sadly, Wieters will miss facing in his debut series). Beyond that, there is not much to get excited about this year in terms of rookie performances (so far).
Speaking of rookies, Wieters (who turned 23 last week) should have better long-term potential then, say, last year’s National League Rookie of the Year (and catcher) Geovany Soto of the Chicago Cubs, who’s looked brutal this season (and pretty much every other year of the 26-year-old’s nine-year career, save for 2007 and 2008). Seriously, what’s up with Soto?
Wieters’ numbers have been down at triple-A in 2009, in part due to a slow start (.260 in April) and in part due to a minor injury that kept him out of the lineup for a few games. Overall, though, his numbers on the year are still solid at .305/.387/.504 in 39 games, which gives you a pretty good idea of just how awesome people expect him to be… because those numbers would be a pretty nice triple-slash line for a lot of people during their career year.
The best part about Wieters is, while he has the best offensive potential for any catcher this side of Mike Piazza, he’s not all offense. The Orioles prospect is also a very good (definitely not just average) defensive catcher. He threw out about 40 percent of base stealers last year, calls a great game and receives the ball very well.
The hype on Wieters is justified. Let’s enjoy the show.
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