Not since the debut of Bo Jackson could Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski remember this kind of hype behind a Major League prospect.
The 6’5", 230-pound wunderkind can hit for average and power, run, throw, and play defense.
His name is Matt Wieters.
Just 23 years old, he is already considered by many to be a top-five catcher and he is yet to play in five Major League games. The Baltimore Orioles prospect was widely considered the best position player in the 2006 draft, which has also produced phenom left-hander David Price.
He already has a Chuck Norris-type joke Web site, Mattwietersfacts.com, where one fan proclaims, "Sliced Bread is Actually The Best Thing Since Matt Wieters." Another jokes "Matt Wieters Went 0-for-4 So He Could Say 'I’m Only Human' And People Would Believe Him."
108,000 fans came out for the three-game series at Camden Yards this weekend to watch Wieters and the rest of the O’s take two of three from Tigers. Crowds like that in Baltimore are usually reserved for series against the Yankees and Red Sox.
The hype surrounding the rookie catcher is well deserved. Wieters hit .343 with 32 home runs and 121 RBI in his 168-game stint in the minors.
The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket showed everyone what the hype is about, going 2-for-4 with a double, a triple for his first major league hit, and a run scored in Saturday’s 7-2 win.
Wieters can play defense as well.
Behind the plate against the first batter of his career, Wieters handled a weak Curtis Granderson grounder with ease and threw out the speedy center fielder at first. Scouts also praise his rapport with pitchers as another plus.
Only time will tell if Wieters can live up to the hype, but ability and talent wise, he is already there.
Despite losing two of three to Wieters and the revived Orioles this past weekend, the Detroit Tigers have been quietly roaring and sit in first place at the end of May, four full games ahead of second place Chicago.
A year after finishing last in the AL Central with an old, slugging lineup and a lack of quality starting pitching, the Tigers have relied on a bevy of young quality arms and improved defensive play to key the turnaround.
Led by ace Justin Verlander (6-2, 3.63 ERA, 90 Ks), who a year ago lost an American League-leading 17 games, Rays castoff Edwin Jackson (5-3, 2.30 ERA, 1.036 WHIP), and the youngest player in the majors this season, 20-year-old Rick Porcello (6-3, 3.48 ERA), the Tigers' top three can match any team's in terms of pure talent.
The resurgent Dontrelle Willis, who threw one-hit ball in 6 1/3 innings in his second start back from an anxiety disorder, rounds out a solid rotation.
It was only a matter of time before Mark Teixeira got comfortable in a Yankees uniform, and after struggling to hit around the Mendoza line in April, Big Tex exploded, hitting over .350 in the month of May, with 13 home runs and 34 RBI.
The 13 home runs and 34 RBI were the most in May by a Yankee since Mickey Mantle hit 15 home runs and drove in 36 runs in 1956, the year he won the triple crown.
The $180-million man seemed to be struggling with the pressure of carrying the Yankees lineup in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. Once Rodriguez returned to the Yankee lineup three weeks ago to bat behind Teixeira, it’s been a pick-your-poison type scenario for opposing pitchers.
Of all the great tandems that have been featured in Yankee lineups over the years, this one could rival that of the original M&M boys, Maris and Mantle in the early '60s, and that of Ruth and Gherig in the '20s.
Rodriguez and Teixeira seem to feed off of each other’s success and have carried the Yanks to a 17-5 mark since his return, and back in first place in the AL East since the final day of the 2006 season.
Someone had to take the fall for the Rockies' 18-28 start, and after dropping three in a row to the division-leading Dodgers at home, manager Clint Hurdle got the axe.
In eight years, Hurdle recorded just one winning season, 2007 when the Rockies won 21 of their last 22 games en route to the World Series He was no longer able to inspire his players and it was showing up on the field. Former rookie sensation Troy Tulowitzki is hitting just .227, and all-star third baseman Garrett Atkins is hitting a putrid .195.
Hurdle wasn’t helped out any by the offseason trade of Matt Holliday to the Athletics, and he lost ace Jeff Francis to a shoulder injury before the season even began.
Hurdle was given quite the long leash and is the only manager to record losing records in each of his first five seasons and not be let go. One executive described Hurdle’s tenure as “22 great games (referring to the end of 2007) and that was the only highlight.”
AL Player of the week: Luke Scott, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Overshadowed by the debut of Weiters, Scott quietly had the best offensive week in the AL. Scott hit .444 (8-for-18), with six home runs, and 14 RBI, including back-to-back multi-home run games on Friday and Saturday against the Tigers. The Orioles have ridden Scott’s hot bat to seven wins in their last nine games.
AL Pitcher of the Week: David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
The aforementioned No. 1 pick struck out 17 in nine innings, including 11 in 5 2/3 innings against the Twins on Saturday. Price picked up the victory and looked even more dominating than his 2007 ALCS-self when he picked up a victory and closed out Game 7 against the Red Sox.
NL Player of the Week: Ryan Howard, First Base, Philadelphia Phillies
Howard finally broke out this week going 8-for-24 with four home runs and 10 RBI, including a grand slam in a five-RBI game Saturday against the Nationals. Howard is now hitting .265 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI for the season.
NL Pitcher of the Week: Yovani Gallardo, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Given the roll of replacing departed ace CC Sabathia, Gallardo has yet to disappoint. Gallardo is 5-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched. Last week, Gallardo threw eight innings of two-hit shutout baseball against the Cardinals, and finished the week with 15 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings pitched.
Harlan Green-Taub is a contributor for How Bout Them Mets and can be reached at email@example.com.