Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wieters treats sparse Knights crowd

FORT MILL, S.C. - On a soggy, bitterly cold night at the Castle, fantasy hype machine Matt Wieters broke out of a 1-for-11 hitting slump with a pair of sharp singles in Norfolk's 7-0 win over Charlotte on Monday night.

Wieters, the Orioles prized catching prospect, finished 2-for-4 with a walk, a towering flyout to center that had the sound of a HR when it left his bat, and a strikeout swinging.

Official attendance was listed at 1,334, but if there were even 334 folks braving conditions, included seeing your breath by the 7th inning as the rain started falling hard, I'd be surprised.

So instead of playing at Camden and Fenway and Yankee Stadium, in front of tens of thousands, Wieters is playing in front of tens. 

On a night like this, Wieters must be thinking how different his life would be with a big league call-up.

If you've followed Wieters this spring, maybe drafted him on one of your teams, you know what kind of year he had in 2008: .350 avg., 27 HR and 91 RBI in 452 at-bats between A and AA. Oh yeah, his on-base-percentage was a sizzling .450.

Here's what you probably don't know: Wieters swing is about as smooth as homemade ice cream on a mid-August afternoon. He's Joe Mauer, but with serious pop. 

Just from the eye test, Wieters doesn't look 6-foot-5 and his swing doesn't come across as something that can produce 30 HR in the big leagues, but it's had to ignore the numbers. Wieters did smack 35 home runs in about 700 Georgia Tech ABs, hitting at least .355 each season.

At worst, Wieters hits for average and modest power in his rookie season when the Orioles finally wake up, or stop being cheap and let his arbitration clock start ticking. Think A.J. Pierzynski. At best, he'll smack 20 HR and hit .330 after an early-to-mid May call-up. Think Brian McCann.

A switch-hitting catcher who can hit for average and power is something that comes along once a decade. If you're holding onto Wieters, don't let go. If he's available and you have a bench spot, he's worth grabbing now. His swing is that sweet.

The Knights host Norfolk tonight (7:15), Wednesday (11:15 a.m.) and Thursday (7:15 p.m.) and my guess is Wieters, who has played in all four of Norfolk's games, will probably play in all three, either as catcher or DH, as the O's try to get him everyday at-bats. Don't expect to catch Wieters the next time the Tides return on July 6.

One side note: Former Cubs No. 1 draft pick (3rd overall), Luis Montanez is now hitting .588 (10-for-17) after a 3-for-5 night. Yeah, it's only the first week, but keep Montanez on your radar, especially in keeper leagues. He had a breakout 2007 season, batting .335 with 26 HR in 451 AA at-bats. In a 38-game tryout with the Orioles, he batted .295 with 3 HR in 112 at-bats. Just a name to remember.


Anonymous said...

Two singles made sitting in the cold rain worth it? Singles? Good thing for the Knights it doesn't take much to impress you.

Creed said...

It was worth sitting in the rain to catch both Weiters and Montanez. Both will be contributing in Baltimore before the end of the summer.

MichaelProcton said...

Think Brian McCann? Really? McCann is the best-hitting catcher in baseball.

Anonymous said...

Move this team downtown all ready...this team is not going to have pretty attendance this year. Mark my words.