Sorry Matt Wieters, Caleb Joseph is the Man

| May 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

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We have seen it many times and throughout many organizations in Major League Baseball, the arrival of the most highly-touted prospect and the hope that he will live up to the hype. In 2009, the Orioles experienced this when “Jesus in Cleats” aka Matt Wieters was called up to make his debut. Wieters was dubbed “Mauer with power” and was one of the most highly-touted catching prospects in a long time. He was supposed to be a 30+ home run, 100+ RBI producer and a player who many believed would be the franchise player for the Orioles for his whole career. 

Fast forward to now: it is May 2015 and Matt Wieters began his rehab assignment Tuesday and should be ready to come off the disabled list in a week or so. But, is this best thing for the Orioles?

Throughout the majority of his career I always believed that Matt Wieters needed to be locked up long term and that the Orioles would suffer immensely if he was no longer their everyday catcher. He hit more than 20 home runs each of the last three seasons before last year in which was on pace for his best power season offensively before getting hurt after 26 games and missing the rest of the season. 

After the Wieters injury the starting catching job was split between the likes of Nick Hundley, Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger, until Clevenger was sent down. While Hundley had his share of big hits, it was Joseph who emerged to be the better defensive catcher, throwing out runners at a 40% rate, which is higher than any percentage Wieters finished with in a season. In 82 games, Joseph also hit nine home runs, however his batting average of .207 left many fans not trusting him to be the everyday catcher in the case that Wieters would not be ready by Opening Day 2015.

Here we sit in May however and Joseph is hitting .270 with four home runs. He also has a slugging percentage of .441 and an OPS of .801, both of which are higher numbers than Matt Wieters has produced in any full season. I know we are only 42 games into the season and Joseph has a long way to go to prove he is the real deal, but he has shown significant improvement in hitting the ball to all fields, is more selective at the plate, and seems to be coming into his own offensively. Is it possible that he is making O’s fans say “Matt who?” when it comes to return of Matt Wieters? I think so.

The shelf life of catchers in the MLB is very short and many of them usually end their career playing a different position. With Matt Wieters coming off Tommy John Surgery, many are wondering how effective he will be defensively when it comes to throwing out runners, which was always his biggest strength. If he does struggle, it doesn’t really make sense to play him as the everyday catcher. 

Another reason I am starting to favor Joseph over Wieters is the offensive improvement Joseph has shown. Look, by no means will Caleb Joseph be the power threat Wieters has been, however the fact that Joseph has improved so much this season at staying on the ball and using all fields, shows how hard he works at his game. And, let’s be honest, while Wieters hit 20+ home runs in 2011, 2012 and 2013, his average dipped from .262 in 2011 to .249 in 2012 to .235 in 2013. These are not exactly the high batting averages you want from someone who is suppose to be an “offensive first” catcher. To me, Wieters is definitely an above average power hitting catcher, but he is much better all-around defensively than he is offensively. So therefore, if his defense takes a step back when he returns, the O’s are better suited to go with another option and that is Caleb Joseph.

I never thought I would see the day I would think this franchise would be better off without Matt Wieters, but that day has come. He will be a free agent next season and the Orioles shouldn’t even think about paying him the kind of money he and agent Scott Boras are going to demand. Even if he comes back and helps the team offensively this year, I think the Orioles should try to trade him and finish the season with Joseph as the everyday catcher.

I never thought the team would be able to replace Matt Wieters if he missed time with an injury or signed with another team, and now I don’t think he should replace Caleb Joseph. What a difference a year makes.

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I have spent my entire 30 years living in Maryland and I love everything about this city. Despite the bad reputation the city has, Baltimore will always be a special place to me and I love living here. There is nothing better then Sunday afternoons at M&T Bank Stadium and summer nights at Camden Yards when the Yard is packed. You can find me all over the city so don't hesitate to share your opinion of me good or bad. Who knows, if you see me out maybe I will buy you a Natty Boh. Lets go Ravens and Lets go O's!!! Follow me on Twitter at @MRomanell.
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