As Opening Day approaches, I’m going around-the-horn with the Orioles to look at each position and the players you can expect to see manning them this year. I’ll start with catcher.
The O’s official depth chart currently lists the candidates like this….
Wieters is obviously the man here and I expect him to play in upwards of 140 games. Wieters was the 5th overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft out of Georgia Tech. In his three seasons with the Yellow Jackets, Wieters never hit lower than .355 and popped 35 career NCAA homers. In high school, Wieters teamed up with the Mariners’ Justin Smoak, to lead Stratford High School (South Carolina) to the state championship series. Wieters was the team’s starting catcher as early as seventh grade. You may remember Stratford High School for this gross display of police power-tripping and brutality that took place during Wieters’ senior year.
Back to baseball…. Wieters put on a laser show in his first year of pro ball, and hit, you guessed it, .355, between the Carolina League (A+) and the Eastern League (AA). Going into 2009, the Stratford legend was Baseball America’s #1 overall prospect, ahead of the likes of David Price, Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward, and Buster Posey.
Yeah, he was the man. Everyone thought so. However, Matt made his major league debut in May of that year, and things haven’t come as easily at the major league level for the switch-hitter. Wieters has struggled offensively, posting a .266 / .328 / .393 line in his two seasons.
But defensively, Wieters has ranked very well in most metrics designed for catchers, despite being 6’5” and having a reputation for being a stud with the bat.
So what do I think he’ll do this year?
I’m calling breakout. Will he hit .350? No. But he will hit .290 with a .370 OB% and 30 bombs. All of the veteran hitters in the lineup will help Matt relax. He won’t have to save the franchise all by himself anymore.
So who is backing him up?
Well, I don’t see Showalter going with Jake Fox behind the dish all that often. Fox has ridiculous power at the plate, but lacks everything else. He hasn’t caught regularly since 2006, and has since shuffled around multiple positions. Fox has manned RF, 3B, 1B, C, and LF in his short major league career. However, his versatility is really a result of the fact that he stunk equally in each position, and got moved around in order to try to hide his glove. Don’t expect much here. I also doubt he can hit major league pitching.
Craig Tatum will likely fill the backup role to Wieters. He doesn’t have any sort of offensive track record, but he reached the majors somehow. Although I haven’t seen enough of him to know for sure, I’m guessing it’s his defense that got him to the show. At Mississippi State, Tatum caught both Paul Maholm and Jonathan Papelbon. Again, don’t expect much here, but when your #1 catcher is starting 140 games, the backup doesn’t need to be flashy.
About the Author
Written by Sven Jenkins
My name is Sven Jenkins, and I’m an independent baseball analyst from Poughkeepsie, NY. I own 60ft6in.com and do freelance work for STATS Inc. In the past, I've done research for the St. Louis Cardinals and worked one season with Baseball Info Solutions in 2007. I have also spent many nights as an official scorer in the minor leagues and played NCAA D-III baseball at SUNY New Paltz. In the off-season I travel the world, having enjoyed over 1,100 days on the road through 40 different countries. You can email me at: jenkins AT 60ft6in DOT com.