As it turns out, Matt Wieters is not any switch-hitting Jesus or Joe Mauer with power. But he is an All-Star catcher and Gold Glove winner that the Orioles are thrilled to call their own. He has turned into one of the game’s top young catchers.
But how good can Wieters get on offense?
In 2011, he batted .262 with 22 homers, 68 RBIs and an OPS of .778. Last season, he batted .249 with 22 homers, 83 RBIs and a .764 OPS. Could Wieters ever hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs? That may be possible, but seems to be asking a lot for a catcher that carries such a heavy load and is so good on defense.
Wieters’ offense is not an afterthought, but it does rank second to what he does with his glove and brain. The guy has gotten so good at knowing the AL hitters and calling pitches that if his offensive production never lives up to the hype of a few years ago, so be it. You can’t put a stat on the confidence he instills in the pitchers that he catches. That is job one for Wieters and few, if any, do it better.
But if the Orioles get some higher on-base guys that they desire batting ahead of Wieters maybe he gets more RBI chances and his production ticks up over the next year or two.
Wieters seems capable of batting, say, .275 with 25-28 homers and 90 or so RBIs. An .800 OPS should be within reach.
Last season, Wieters ranked fifth in OPS among AL catchers that qualified for the batting title:
.861 - Joe Mauer, Minnesota
.827 - A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox
.785 - Carlos Santana, Cleveland
.781 - Ryan Doumit, Minnesota
.764 - Matt Wieters, Orioles
If Wieters was at .800 last year, he would have ranked third in the league. It should also be pointed out that those are yearly stats for those players and not stats compiled only while they were catching.
One key to improve Wieters’ stats may be in his ability to hit better against right-handed pitching. While his numbers have been very good the last two years vs. lefties, his batting average vs. right-handers has decreased every season since his rookie year of 2009, going from .313 to .263 to .237 to .224 last year. In 2012 against southpaws he hit .323 with an OPS of .908.
By now, it is clear that Wieters is not the monster on offense that some thought he would be and his big league stats have not matched his minor league numbers. He’s not Buster Posey and there are other catchers that outperform him with the bat.
But I don’t think the Orioles’ brass has any complaints and there isn’t often a single day during the season where Buck Showalter doesn’t cite something Wieters did that helped the Orioles win. The coaches simply rave about the guy.
What is your take on Wieters?: How much better can his numbers on offense get? Has he overcome all the high expectations he once faced? Should O’s fans be quite pleased with the the player they have at catcher?