Revisiting the sophomore season of Matt Wieters
I wrote a story that should be up on the site later today on the sophomore season of Matt Wieters. With another torrid September – Wieters is batting .395 in 11 games this month – the switch-hitting catcher has raised his average to .260. He has hit 11 home runs and driven in 53.
Still, I’d imagine that most people would consider his offensive production this year as a significant disappointment as this was supposed to be a breakout season for Wieters. Even he admitted recently that while he’s pleased with the progress that he has made defensively, he was disappointed in some of his struggles at the plate.
“I expect big things out of myself,” Wieters said. “Every year, I’m working to try and be the best player that I can. This year didn’t feel like I played quite up to the level I’m capable of. It’s something that you can take into the offseason and work out even harder to try to get to where you can.
“Hopefully, I can keep finishing strong. The good thing is I have negatives and positives to take in the offseason. There are enough things I need to work on and enough things I can look at and say, ‘I need to do this every day.’ The offseason is about making the negatives into the positives. That’s how you get better.”
One thing that is important to note – and this should be comforting to Orioles fans - is that in reporting this story, I didn’t talk to one player, executive or scout who still doesn’t believe that Wieters is going to be a very good player in this league. In fact, several indicated that Wieters has made nice progress considering all that has been on his plate since he arrived in the major leagues last May.
That includes learning his own pitching staff, learning opposing ones, working on his swing from both sides of the plate, working on his game calling and defensive mechanics, and doing it all while confronting enormous expectations.
“I think it’s far too early to get concerned about him,” said one American League scout. “When he was brought up, he was the second coming of Joe Mauer. That’s a lot of expectations to live by. And then all of a sudden, he’s going to catch 145-150 games a year. It is a tremendous grind playing that position, being a switch hitter, learning a league and then having a losing season. That’s a lot to deal with.
“To be honest with you, I think he’s going to be fine, but I think the transition is going to be a lot slower than people probably expect. The responsibility that he has is tremendous. … I see this guy hitting 25 plus [homers], driving in close to 100. I see him somewhere in the fifth or sixth hole in the order and being productive. I got him being one of the top three catchers in both leagues eventually.”
Another scout, this one from the National League, also remains enthusiastic about the catcher’s future, saying he’s still a “Wieters’ guy.”
“I don’t know that he’s ever going to be a star, but I think he’ll be a very good catcher for a lot of years,” the scout said. “He’s just too good of a talent and he’s also the type of guy that elevates to the situation. I saw him against Tampa with [Carl] Crawford on base and he really sped up everything. There aren't too many guys who can do that.”
And because everybody wants to hear what Buck Showalter has to say these days, let’s just say that the Orioles’ new manager has been very impressed by Wieters, especially his game calling and defense.
“He’s pretty good,” Showalter said. “Maybe everyone expects him to be this huge offensive player and this towering presence in the lineup. I don’t know about that. All I know is what I’ve seen from him when I got here and I am impressed. And I’m not easily impressed. I’m glad Matt is on our side. I’m glad that he’s wearing our uniform.”
Showalter met with Wieters earlier this month and made sure the 24-year-old realized how much he is counted on for both his play and leadership.
Wieters is a pretty quiet and mild-mannered guy, but there have been times this season where he has let his feelings known. During one of Jeremy Guthrie’s starts in late June, Wieters stalked Guthrie down the tunnel to let him know that he wasn’t happy with Guthrie’s execution in the inning.
“He was on a clubhouse manhunt,” joked Guthrie.