Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was once regarded as one of the best prospects in all of baseball. A standout hitter at Georgia Tech, he collected accolades (and hits) seemingly every year. He ended his collegiate career with a .359 batting average to go along with 35 home runs and 169 consecutive games played for the Yellow Jackets. Matt also collected 16 saves serving as Tech’s on-again-off-again closer. His college exploits garnered him much deserved praise and he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, complete with a $6 million signing bonus.
Matt’s legend continued to grow, as some scouts went so far as to call him “Joe Mauer, with more power.” His bat was seemingly destined to make a huge impact at the major league level, and his defense was nothing to scoff at either. He did little in the minors to temper fans’ enthusiasm, as he played in 169 minor league games and absolutely smoked the ball at every stop. Matt hit a combined .343/.438/.576 (1.014 OPS) with 32 home runs and 121 RBI, earning the 2008 Minor League Player of the Year award.
Matt was called to the majors on May 29, 2009. He hit fairly well in 96 games and retained the starting spot for 2010, but 2010 didn’t go as planned for Wieters. Playing in 130 games, he hit only .249/.319/.377 with 11 homers, his prodigious power seemingly evaporated.
However, in 2011 he showed signs of life, both at the plate and behind it. Matt earned a Gold Glove and Fielding Bible award, while also appearing in his first-ever All-Star Game. His triple-slash rose to a more respectable .262/.328/.450, and his power returned, hitting 22 home runs in 139 games. His defense was regarded as some of the best in the Majors, as 2011 was a major success for him.
However, the bat has seemed to come alive in 2012. Through the first 15 games, Matt has hit a blistering .294/.379/.667 with already five home runs. He’s also walked seven times to eleven strikeouts, while playing his trademark fantastic defense behind the plate. Wieters accumulated 5.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in his 2011 season, and is already up to 1.0 in 2012.
While the sample size is small, it looks as if Matt has emerged as a true superstar behind the plate, well-balanced on both sides of the plate. At a position that has become increasingly more Hispanic-oriented through the years, Wieters is showing that a superstar pedigree can take a year or two to iron out the issues. Like Alex Gordon last season, Wieters is another high-profile prospect to begin to figure things out and take the AL by storm.
While it’s unlikely the Orioles are in line for any major success this season, they look to have a true superstar on their hands in catcher Matt Wieters.