Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Going into 2009, one of the most confounding players to evaluate and place in your ranking order will be Baltimore Orioles "farm hand" Matt Wieters.
Wieters is a catcher by trade and a pure hitter by talent. The trouble is, he hasn't made it to the "big club" yet and might not start the season there. But if he does stick with the Orioles, he might become the next Geovany Soto (2008 NL Rookie of the Year stats - .285 with 23 HRs and 86 RBIs) and who in their right mind wouldn't want him on their team, particularly if they are in a keeper league.
Let's look at what he's done so far.
In 2008 he spent time at Frederick (A) and Bowie (AA) in the Orioles minor league system and starred with the bat. In 437 at bats, the Charleston, SC switch hitter smashed 27 HRs and knocked in 91 runs while posting a batting average of .355 and an stunning OPS of 1.054.
In the "2009 Minor League Baseball Analyst" by Deric McKamey, come the comments. "tall/strong with impact-type bat producing above average power and batting average from both sides of the plate. About defense he says, "Possesses plus arm strength and a quick release (1.9 seconds), and receiving skills in nailing 38% of attempted runners. McKamey ranks him as the No.1 prospect in all of minor league baseball and in my opinion he will be a top-five catcher by 2010.
It's not a questions of "if" he will start for the Orioles, but when. If the Orioles announce that he is their opening-day catcher before your draft, he'll likely go in the middle rounds. But if he doesn't start in the "bigs" he is still a late-round selection.
So what's an owner to do?
If you are in a keeper league, the decision is much easier, because he is going to make it to the majors, and soon. So pick him as if he is already there and don't give it another thought.
If you are only concerned with 2009, your decision-making process is more convoluted.
Baltimore did sign journeyman Gregg Zaun in January to a one-year deal, but the career .251 hitter is obviously not the Orioles' long-term answer to the backstop position.
Ask yourself, can you pick up a temporary starter who won't kill you until Wieters gets there? Do you have enough talent to wait for him if he comes up around the All-Star break?
Here's one thing to add to the equation. The Orioles traded their starting catcher from 2008, Ramon Hernandez (.257, 15 HRs, 65 RBIs), to the Cincinnati Reds for Ryan Freel and two prospects just to make room for Wieters.
If Baltimore believes that much in Wieters, shouldn't you?
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