First and foremost, I just want to say that this article is one out of many that will be my new "Around the Diamond" feature. Every two days or so, I plan to come out with my predictions, previews, and opinions about each position on the field.
To start, we go behind the plate.
Last season, many Oriole fans griped about the play of one man: Ramon Hernandez. I think many of us O's faithful remember viewing him as a man not blocking the plate, or not running after passed balls, or for the matter, letting balls get by him, period.
I always thought that it was a shame, especially since he was one of the better defensive catchers in the game just one year before. Now, Baltimore goes into Spring Training with not just a new look, but a new position battle as well.
Cue Matt Wieters. With the 5th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, the O's took the switch-hitting slugger hoping to get a future replacement for Hernandez. Well, I think that they got what they were wishing for. Matt Wieters is now considered an elite prospect, and his numbers don't lie.
This 6'5", 230 pound catcher hit a combined .355, with 27 homeruns, 91 RBI's, two triples, a .454 OBP, and a .600 slugging percentage. Not too shabby for a young man in his first full year in the pros.
Now let's take a glance at the current situation. Here are Ramon Hernandez's numbers from last season: .257 batting average, 15 homeruns, 65 RBI's, .406 slugging percentage, and a .308 OBP.
Some people will say that those numbers aren't too bad for a starting catcher. I will agree; however, it's not what he's doing at the plate, but behind it.
He had 10 passed balls, and out of 123 attempted base stealers, he only caught 24. That left 99, yes 99, base runners to steal while he was behind the plate.
Yes, some may argue that a percentage of those runners may or may not have been on the pitcher; however, a team must have a catcher that can stop the runners from having a "field day."
Now let's look at Wieters. This kid is big, plain and simple. Here are some quotes from two scouting reports regarding his defense:
Baseball Think Factory said, "Defensively, Wieters is a plus-defender with a quick transfer and release to go with his accurate fringe plus-plus arm."
Brewerfan.net said, "...he shows very good quickness, a strong throwing arm and his natural leadership skills allow him to handle the pitching staff well."
Let us also not forget that he was once the closer for the Georgia Tech baseball program, proving that he has the arm to be an everyday catcher.
Well, the stage is set. Who will come out on top after Spring Training? My prediction is this. Ramon goes in and wins the starting job for a small portion of the season.
After a few dismal performances, Dave Trembley will test the waters with Wieters, and then the clouds will open up and the sun will shine brightly in Baltimore.
At least we all hope.
Check out next time's edition as we check in at first base.
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