Catching prospect Matthew Wieters turns 23 years old on May 21st.
On Friday, he hit hit his fourth home run for Triple-A Norfolk.
Wieters played for Georgia Tech, following in the footsteps of players like Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Teixeira, and fellow catcher Jason Varitek.
He was drafted fifth overall in the 2007 amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles, and four other teams are out of their minds for passing him up. However, David Price was picked number one that year by the Tampa Bay Rays and I can't argue that.
Going in to the 2008 season, he was ranked 12th by Baseball America on their 2008 Top 100 Prospects List and was the highest ranked catcher on the list. He participated in 2008 spring training with the Orioles but started out in Single-A Frederick Keys. Weiters earned a quick promotion midseason to the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
In 130 games for the Keys and Baysox, hit a combined .355 with 27 home runs and 91 RBI. Wieters earned the 2008 Minor League Player of The Year honors from Baseball America. Some say his 2008 Minor League season was the best by a Minor League player in some 40 years.
Wieters hit .343 in 35 spring training at bats for the Orioles in 2009, but was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk to delay the start of his service time and extend the time until he becomes eligible for salary arbitration and free agency.
Which leads me to breaking down the reason why he isn't an Oriole yet—salary arbitration.
Q: When does a player become eligible for salary arbitration?
A: A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.
While we all know Wieters deserves to be on the big team right now, the Orioles have a bright future and are playing it smart. They know they won't compete in 2009, but in a few years, that could all change.
Their move, fair or not to Wieters, is all about saving money for the future. I don't know how well Matt understands this or not, but his agent is Scott Boras, so he obviously will get a big check sooner then later.
Rays slugger Evan Longoria had to go through the same ordeal last season.
With the likes of players such as Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, the Baltimore Orioles do have a bright future indeed. With some solid pitching in a few years, they will compete in the AL East.