When the Orioles drafted catcher Matt Wieters with the 5th overall pick in the 2007 draft, they knew they were getting a special player. He was the top rated position player in the draft; he’s a switch hitter with power; and he understands what it takes to be a complete player.
“You’re not going to go four for four every day,” Wieters said. “You’re not going to get 2 or 3 hits or throw out 2 or 3 base runners every game. So every day you come to the ballpark you have to do something that’s going to help your team win.”
It’s that understanding of the game and his tremendous physical talent that has the Orioles’ organization excited about the potential of their future catcher.
“Whether you call a good game or get that big sacrifice fly or even move a runner from 2nd to 3rd you can help your team win a game,” he said. “It’s something I try to pride myself on every day. Just try to help the team win.”
After the 2007 draft, the Orioles were involved in extended negotiations to get Wieters signed. It came down to the last minute last August 15. But the organization gave Wieters the largest signing bonus ever given to a draft pick.
Wieters is mature beyond his 22 years, and he says he doesn’t feel any extra pressure as the top prospect, big bonus draft pick.
“Once you get all that behind you, it’s a relief more than anything, getting the contract signed to be able to get out and play. Now I just get out on the field with eight other guys trying to compete and trying to win ballgames.”
Wieters has split this season between Frederick and Bowie and he has excelled at each level. He was named to the Carolina League All Star team after batting .345 for the Keys with 15 home runs and 40-RBI’s in 69 games.
He’s been equally productive in double A for the Baysox, batting .365 with 12 home runs and 51-RBIs in 61 games.
His combined numbers for his first full professional season are eye opening:
.355-BA, 27-HR, 91-RBI, 155-Hits, 51-Extra Base Hits, in 130-Games
Wieters works as hard at his defense as he does on his hitting. In college at Georgia Tech, he didn’t call pitches for the pitchers. The calls came from a coach on the bench. But as a pro, it’s up to him to guide his pitcher through the game.
“It’s something you have to enjoy doing,” he said. “You try to get on the same page as your pitcher and build chemistry.”
Bowie has an outstanding pitching staff with four top prospects:
Brad Bergesen (15-6) 3.22-ERA
Jason Berken (12-4) 3.58-ERA
David Hernandez (10-4) 2.68-ERA, 166-strikeouts
Chris Tillman (11-4) 3.18-ERA, 154-strikeouts
The 20-year-old Tillman may be the Orioles’ top Minor League pitching prospect, and he has grown this season working with Wieters.
“I can tell what he’s going to call before he puts down the sign,” Tillman said. “The only time I shake him off is about location. Then he’ll come to the mound and ask me why I did that and before he gets to the mound I can tell you exactly what he’s going to say. But we’re on the same page and that’s important.”
Wieters will not be a September call up to the Orioles. After the Baysox compete in the Eastern League playoffs, he’ll get some rest and then join other Orioles prospects in the Arizona Fall League. When asked if he’s disappointed at not getting a chance to put on a big league uniform this season he again showed his maturity.
“You always want to get called up to the Majors as quickly as possible but I definitely understand the path the organization has me on. It’s been a great first professional season for me, it’s gone very well. Right now I’m enjoying Bowie and my teammates in this playoff push and hopefully I’ll get a ring.”
Frederick won the Carolina League championship in 2007 and Bowie has a chance to win its first ever Eastern League championship this season. Many of the players who won last season are now on the Baysox roster. They are learning to win as a group. And Wieters has not only fit in, he’s become the leader. He’s a top prospect in every way, and the Orioles couldn’t be happier with his progress.