Over the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at the optimistic and realistic projections for your Baltimore Orioles. I am admittedly an O’s fan. However, I can also separate my fandom from reality to realistically examine each player from an unbiased view.
It’s my belief that the majority of sports fans are not capable of achieving such a feat, nor do they really don’t want to. Most fans choose to remain optimistic about their entire team and hope for the best. Because the Orioles were a losing team for so long, Baltimore is used to not having high expectations. However, after a magical 2012 season, I’m a little concerned that the fan base will once again have sky high expectations. With that being said, let’s take a look at both view points. We will start behind the plate and work our way around the diamond.
Matt Wieters was the #5 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He is playing in his 26-27 year old season. Wieters followed Jason Varitek and Joe Mauer behind the plate at Georgia Tech University, and immediately drew comparisons to the Twins star catcher. In college he was a switch hitting, high average, high power player and earned the nickname “God” from his teammates.
In two short seasons in the minors Wieters hit .343 with 32 home runs and 112 RBI. He is projected to be a batting champion caliber, high average, high power player. The scouts had him projected to be an MVP middle of the order caliber bat. Entering his 4th full season, and getting closer to his prime, Wieters is supposed to continue to develop towards being the elite player many expected him to be out of college.
Wieters is already an elite catcher. When you combine game calling, defensive skill, and offensive numbers, Wieters is near the top of the list with Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. Last season he was 6th amongst catchers in home runs and 4th in RBI. It is true that Wieters will continue to develop and improve upon his numbers. His home run total, RBI, and walks have steadily increased over the past three seasons.
At age 27, Wieters should be in store for his biggest season yet. The batting average however, is a different story. Somehow Wieters has gone from being a .343 minor league hitter to a .260 career Major League hitter. With increased production, you have to expect him to inch closer to a .280 type this season, which would be considered “hitting for average.” Unfortunately .280 is not good enough to be a batting champion, like Wieters was projected to be.
Could Wieters eventually be a Major League batting champion? Perhaps. But at this point it’s unlikely that his average will ever get that high. By the time he turns 30 he could be a .300 hitter. Typically when a guy makes a big yearly average leap he shows improvement in the second half. When you read a guys splits and see that he hit .240 in the first half and .302 in the second half, you can predict that a .300 yearly average is attainable.
In that case, something probably clicked for that player in which they found something that would change their career. Wieters doesn’t have any sort of indicators of that magnitude in his splits. My assumption that he will rise closer to .280 is more instinctual than anything. A guy who was taken #5 overall that has had an elite minor league average has to be better than .240. Especially when he’s starting to come into his prime.
What is worrisome about the Wieters’ average situation is the stats of the guys he is compared to. Both Joe Mauer and Brian McCann had immediate success in the average category. At this point in his career, Wieters has numbers that are pretty comparable to Jason Varitek‘s, who never hit higher than .293 and ended up with a career average of .256. The difference is that Varitek only hit .248 in the minors. All this leads me to believe that Wieters will continue to improve the average until he gets near .300 because his low average thus far has been baffling.
Overall, expect another big season out of Wieters. He should be a middle of the order impact bat. His defense and game calling is second to no one in the American League. Now it’s about time that the Orioles lock him up long term. A 27 year old catcher, with the third best numbers at his position in all of baseball, with the ceiling to become #1, is a guy that needs to be an Oriole for life.
For a fantasy analysis of every player in baseball: The Fantasy God’s 2013 Cheat Sheet is Now Available. This unique color coded cheat sheet gives predictions on the top 1,114 players, as ranked by Yahoo fantasy. The Fantasy God uses his unique knowledge of split statistics, historical trend, and somewhat psychic ability, that brings him great success every season. Follow him on Twitter: @FantasyGodSport.