Matt Wieters was supposed to be the savior. The one-man wrecking crew that would put the team, and the city, on his shoulders and carry us back to the promised land. He would be the next Cal. He would be our star. He would be the final piece of the puzzle.
Going into his second full season in the bigs however there seem to be more questions than answers.
He was called “switch-hitting jesus” by some, other crafted shirts and facts and in the post-modern tornado that is the internet the storm spread and expectations grew. His first major league at bat was the single most jubilant day I have experienced at the ballpark. He was met with thunderous cheers that matched the antean task given to him.
He was put on the cover of Sports illustrated.
Now, Baseball Prospectus one of the very publications responsible for the heaps upon heaps of accolades has now deemed him one of the biggest busts of ALL – TIME. It is good to see that even in negative press Matt Wieters still attract hyperbole.
Many Orioles fans have explained Wieters lack of an offensive explosion to his work on being one of the best, if not the best, defensive catchers in the game. And he is. Wieters took to the task of being the field commander every night for the Orioles and that leadership has really started to shine through under Buck Showalter. Wieters looks more muscular this Spring as well. Perhaps THIS is the year that he finally breaks out and as someone once said “unleashes hellfire” on the American League?
So far this Spring it hasn’t happened. Granted, In six games and 18 ABs Wieters is batting .278, but the only has one extra base hit, no homers and has not shown much power. A criticism that I have heard is Wieters had a “slow bat” last year and this was the primary cause of his offensive struggles. Perhaps, but I honestly don’t know how someone without prior training and really good cameras can really make that determination. I mean, I am sure one can see it that some players have a quicker swing vs others but one would think you need more than an HD tv to make that diagnosis.
Wieters low offensive wattage is a frustrating thing to watch. Last year it is as if you expected him at any moment to simply turn it on, gun it and never look back. But he never seemed to get into a rhythm; he never seemed comfortable. Perhaps that changes this year with a lineup full of people to take the pressure off? Bottom line is this: 2011 is an important year for the career of Matt Wieters. BP jumped the gun WAY TOO EARLY when they called Wieters one of the biggest busts ever but another year of middling power and mediocre average could spell problems for the team in general. The Orioles don’t need another “above average” player in a key position, Wieters was not drafted to be an “above average” bat he was drafted to be an all-star. A third straight season may require the team to re-think its strategy going forward when decisions are made about just who is in “the core” when we talk about the “core players”.
SI Jon Heyman tweeted this today about another high-profile slugging draftee:
Scouts who have seen justin smoak (.118 this spring) said he has holes in swing and is “no given” to become a star.
The Orioles passed on Smoak in favor of Brian Matusz and while we all exhale remember that Wieters struggles are all too common a tale. The road of major league history is littered with the desicated carcasses of “can’t miss” prospects and more than a couple of them are wearing Orioles uniforms. WIeters has not missed yet, but this year means a lot for that evaluation.
I sure will feel better when he hits that first spring homerun.