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Tag:Matt Wieters
Posted on: February 24, 2010 10:49 am
 

Four O's crack BA's Top 100

Baseball America released its annual Top 100 Prospects list on Tuesday and, despite the graduations to the majors of 2009 No. 1 prospect Matt Wieters and No. 22 prospect Chris Tillman, the Orioles are well-represented. Baltimore is one of 10 teams with four players on the list; only the Rays, with seven, and the Cubs and Indians, with five, have more.

Leading the way for the O's is No. 5 prospect Brian Matusz, who retained his rookie status despite breezing through the minors and making eight starts for the big-league club last summer. The 23-year-old southpaw is the second-highest-ranked pitcher on the list, slotting three spots behind much-hyped Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg. He ranked 25th on Baseball America's list last year, before he had thrown a single professional pitch.

Coming in at No. 37 is switch-hitting third baseman Josh Bell, who came over from the Dodgers in the deadline deal that sent left-hander George Sherrill to Los Angeles. Bell, 23, didn't make Baseball America's 2009 list but improved his stock significantly last season by improving his conditioning and defense and displaying the ability to hit from his weaker right side in the Arizona Fall League. Bell should make his big-league debut at some point this summer.

Also appearing on Baseball America's list for the first time is lefty Zach Britton, who checks in at No. 63 after earning Pitcher of the Year honors in the advanced Class A Carolina League last season. The 22-year-old has used his fastball/sinker/slider combination to post a 3.25 ERA in three-plus minor league seasons but must improve his command as he moves up the minor league ladder. He's ticketed for Double-A Bowie in 2010.

A mediocre showing in Triple-A dropped Jake Arrieta's stock somewhat, as the right-hander slid from No. 67 on Baseball America's 2009 list to No. 99 on the list released on Tuesday. The soon-to-be 24-year-old right-hander will look to sharpen his command in his return to Triple-A Norfolk this season and will likely get his first big-league opportunity this summer when the need arises. He projects as an innings-eating middle-of-the-rotation starter.

If there is a negative aspect to the list from the Orioles' standpoint, it's that 2009 first-round pick Matt Hobgood failed to crack the Top 100. Some considered the right-hander a budget-conscious reach at No. 5 overall, and 15 players selected after Hobgood made the list, including high school pitcher-draftees Tyler Matzek of Colorado (No. 21), Jacob Turner of Detroit (No. 26), Zack Wheeler of San Francisco (No. 49) and Chad James of Florida (No. 78). Of course, it's only a list compiled by a magazine/website, and the 19-year-old - who has made just eight pro appearances - has plenty of time to validate his draft slot.
Posted on: September 25, 2009 11:40 am
 

2010 Prospect Preview

Some of baseball's most promising young players have punched their tickets to the big leagues this season and given fans a glimpse of the future. 20-year-old Rick Porcello has racked up 14 wins for the Tigers, Atlanta's Tommy Hanson has quickly established himself as one of the National League's better hurlers and flamethrower Neftali Feliz has dominated in relief down in Arlington. Gordon Beckham has added punch to the White Sox lineup and Andrew McCutchen has given long-suffering Pirates fans reason for optimism. Baltimore's Matt Wieters has come on lately after a slow start and starters Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman have had encouraging debuts. Colby Rasmus looks like the next sweet-swinging star in St. Louis, Matt LaPorta has done his initial mashing for Cleveland and Dexter Fowler has swiped nearly 30 bags for Colorado. Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar have staked their claims as the shortstops of the future in Texas and Milwaukee. 21-year-old Travis Snider has flashed his power potential for the Jays, Wade Davis has had some dominant outings for the Rays and Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill have both reached double-digits in victories for the A's. Madison Bumgarner joined an already superb group of young hurlers in San Francisco this month, and his future battery mate, Buster Posey , collected his first big league hit on Saturday night.

It was truly an impressive collection of young talent that reached the show in 2009, and it was a pleasure to watch baseball's next generation of stars get their feet wet, and in some cases, excel. The long, cold, baseball-free winter is on the horizon, but baseball fans - and prospect watchers in particular - can take comfort in the knowledge that the next reinforcements in the national pastime's youth movement have designs on infiltrating big league rosters in 2010. What follows is my top-five list of the most exciting prospect debuts to look forward to next season.

1. Stephen Strasburg , RHP, Nationals

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft may very well be the most hyped pitching prospect of all-time. He's certainly the richest, having "settled" for a four-year, $15.1 million major league contract after rumors had circulated that he and agent Scott Boras were seeking a deal in the $50 million range. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Strasburg has the ideal pitcher's frame, and he uses it to unleash heat that often registers in the triple-digits. His critics question his secondary stuff - he didn't usually need it to dominate collegiate hitters as the ace of Tony Gwynn 's San Diego State squad - but Strasburg has flashed a promising slider and changeup. He has outstanding control as well, walking just 19 batters in 109 innings while fanning 195 this past season for the Aztecs. Strasburg signed too late to appear in the minor leagues in 2009 and will get his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League. The Nats certainly need some buzz, so don't be shocked if Strasburg opens 2010 in the rotation. It's more likely he'll tune up in the minors for a few weeks.

2. Jason Heyward , OF, Braves

Heyward's mix of present production and long-term upside make him far and away the best positional prospect in baseball. The Braves would have been content to bring the 6-foot-4, 220-pound outfielder along slowly after selecting him out of a Georgia high school with the 14th overall pick in the 2007 draft, but Heyward accelerated his timetable by dominating the older and more experienced competition at every minor league level in his first two-plus pro seasons. He reached Triple-A shortly after his 20th birthday this season and batted .323 with 17 homers in 99 games at three levels, and, most impressively for such a young player, he walked as many times (51) as he struck out. Heyward, who bats from the left side, projects as a No. 3 hitter with the ability to hit for both average and power. He has good speed and the strong throwing arm needed to play right field. He has a good shot at opening the 2010 season with the Braves, and if he doesn't, he'll be just a phone call and a short commute away at Triple-A Gwinnett.

3. Pedro Alvarez , 3B, Pirates

Having regrettably passed on Wieters in 2007 to take the more signable left-hander Daniel Moskos of Clemson, the Pirates jumped at the opportunity to select the best college hitter available with the second pick in the 2008 draft after Tampa Bay opted for high school shortstop Tim Beckham. Contentious, drawn-out negotiations between the Pirates and Alvarez and his agent, Scott Boras, prevented the Vanderbilt product from making his pro debut in 2008, and Alvarez reportedly showed up out of shape this spring. He unexpectedly struggled at the plate for advanced Class A Lynchburg early in the year, but his performance following a midseason promotion to Double-A Altoona suggests that all he needed was a greater challenge. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound slugger hit .333 in 60 Eastern League contests and finished the season with 27 homers and 95 RBI, though he did fan 129 times in 465 at bats. There is some question as to whether he'll stick at third base, but Alvarez figures to be a fixture in the middle of the Pirates' lineup for years to come. It's possible that the Alvarez Era in Pittsburgh will begin on Opening Day 2010.


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Posted on: August 3, 2009 12:06 am
 

Welcome to the show, Brian Matusz

Baltimore Orioles fans waited months for the much-hyped arrival of catcher Matt Wieters , and the back end of the rotation's struggles made the wait for right-hander Chris Tillman 's debut seem a lot longer than it actually was. Brian Matusz 's impending promotion, on the other hand, is an unexpected and much appreciated surprise. O's fans were well aware of the highly touted southpaw's dominance of Double-A hitters, but Andy MacPhail & Co. had stated all along that he would finish up his first full professional season in the minors and then be sent home. Instead, all indications are that Matusz will start in place of the injured Brad Bergesen on Tuesday night in Detroit.

Matusz will be making his Major League debut in just his 20th pro appearance, but he certainly appears ready for prime time. The fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft signed too late to appear in any minor league games last summer but made a good showing in the Arizona Fall League , ranking as its No. 3 prospect according to Baseball America . He was assigned to advanced Class A Frederick to begin the year but earned a promotion to Double-A Bowie after posting a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts. Eastern League hitters proved no match for the 22-year-old, who won all seven of his starts for the Baysox before he was pulled after one inning Saturday in anticipation of his big league debut. In total, Matusz went 11-2 with a 1.55 ERA in 19 minor league starts this year, fanning 121 and walking just 32 in 113 innings.

With four major league-caliber pitches - five if you count both variations of his low-90s fastball - and impeccable command, Matusz seems like as good a bet for immediate success as any rookie pitcher in recent memory. I had a chance to speak with the potential future ace last September while he was in Aberdeen working out with the short-season Class A IronBirds just a few weeks after signing, and he seemed optimistic about his future in orange and black and eager to get started on what ultimately turned out to be a quick trip to the big leagues.

Q: You were drafted out of high school (by the Angels, in the fourth round of the 2005 draft) but elected to go to college instead of sign. Was it a difficult decision to go to college instead of going pro?

A: Oh, absolutely. When that type of money is flashed in front of an 18-year-old's face, I mean, it's real tough to turn down. But deep down inside I knew I wanted to go to college. I knew I wanted to have at least three years to have that experience, and it ended up being a great decision.

Q: Negotiations went right up to the deadline. Were you confident all along that something would get done, or were you concerned that you might not be able to agree to terms?

A: No, I knew from the beginning that we were going to get it done. I wasn't asking for anything that was record-breaking, or anything that wasn't a right fit. I knew that we were going to come to terms, but it was going to come down to the end. I knew that, my agent knew that, and [Orioles GM Andy] McPhail and [scouting director] Joe Jordan knew that it was going to come down to the end, but we were making good progress. We worked well together, and I'm glad that we were able to make a deal.

Q: What was the Orioles' purpose for assigning you to Aberdeen without the intention of having you pitch?

A: It's just a great experience for me to get out here, experience minor league ball, meet a lot of the guys, be able to play in such a great ballpark and just be around the game. And to start my throwing, start working out a little bit so I can get ready for instructs and hopefully Arizona Fall League.

Q: So you don't know for sure whether you'll be playing in the Arizona Fall League yet?

A: Not yet. It hasn't been determined. I'm hoping to play in the Arizona Fall League, but if not, Hawaii [Winter Baseball ] is an option too.

Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?

A: I throw a two-seam and four-seam fastball; I throw a changeup, a curveball and a slider. I use the slider as more of an out-pitch; the curveball I can use as an out-pitch as well as a set-up pitch - I feel like I've got very good command of it. My changeup I like to use at any time in the count; just depending on the hitter, I like to throw it to both lefties and righties. And obviously the fastball is the same thing - it can be a set-up pitch, it could be an out-pitch ... whatever is working that day. A good day for me is when I have everything going my way and I have a lot of options to work with.

Q: Do you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher, a guy who pitches to contact, or some mixture of the two?

A: Well, I had a lot of success in college with strikeouts. I led the country my junior year, and I was second my sophomore year in strikeouts. I had a lot of strikeouts throughout my career, and that was one thing we pitched for and really tried to do in college was pitch for the strikeout. Pitching to aluminum bats, we wanted to prevent other guys from hitting it. But it might be a little bit different out here. I'll work with my coaches, and hopefully I'll be able to pitch in to guys a lot more and get jam-shots. We'll just see how it goes - I'm just trying to get in shape and get ready to get out there.

 

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Posted on: August 1, 2009 12:17 am
Edited on: August 1, 2009 7:55 am
 

August 2009 Orioles Prospect Rankings

Originally posted on The Washington Times' National Pastime


The Baltimore Orioles' youth movement continued in July as 21-year-old right-hander Chris Tillman joined rookies Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez and Jason Berken on the big league roster. Down on the farm, lefty Brian Matusz continued to overwhelm Eastern League hitters and Brandon Erbe returned to the Bowie rotation after completing his rehabilitation from shoulder fatigue. The trade of closer George Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers brought two more promising young players into the fold in third baseman Josh Bell and right-hander Steven Johnson, the son of broadcaster and former O's pitcher Dave Johnson.

Please note: Players with big league experience are ineligible for inclusion in these rankings. July rankings are in parentheses.


CREAM OF THE CROP

1. Brian Matusz , LHP, Bowie (1)

Matusz has started seven games for Bowie and won all seven. He's allowed only eight earned runs, six of them in his lone poor Double-A start on July 16 in Akron. He's arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball.

2. Jake Arrieta , RHP, Norfolk (3)

Arrieta got off to a decent start after his promotion to Norfolk but hit a rough patch in July, posting a 5.29 ERA in six starts. Between Double-A and Triple-A the 23-year-old is 9-7 with a 3.58 ERA and 119 K's in 110 2/3 innings.

3. Zach Britton , LHP, Frederick (5)

Britton issued 26 free passes in his first 47 2/3 innings but has walked just 17 in his last 61 1/3 frames. He's pitching deeper into games of late, averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per start since the Carolina League All-Star break.

4. Brandon Erbe , RHP, Bowie (7)

Erbe has looked strong in his last two starts, allowing two runs in six innings July 25 and two in 6 2/3 frames July 30. Command remains an issue for the 21-year-old, who has a 35-to-18 K-to-walk ratio in 39 2/3 Double-A innings.

5. Brandon Snyder , 1B, Norfolk (4)

Eastern League pitchers proved no match for Snyder but the 2005 first-rounder hit a wall upon his promotion to Triple-A. He has really come on recently though, with a .368 average and nine RBI in his past 10 games.

6. Matt Hobgood , RHP, Bluefield (6)

Hobgood, the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, is just beginning to get his feet wet in Rookie ball after signing for a $2.42 million bonus. He allowed two earned runs, fanned four and walked three in his first three innings.

7. Caleb Joseph , C, Frederick (8)

Carolina League pitchers can't figure Joseph out, and he's not providing any clues. He's hitting .345 against left-handers and .329 against righties; .333 at home and .338 on the road; .316 in day games and .341 at night.

8. Josh Bell , 3B, Bowie (NR)

Bell, the key piece in the George Sherrill trade, has loads of power potential but may lack the range to remain at third base in the long run. The 22-year-old was hitting .296 with 11 homers for the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate.

9. Xavier Avery , OF, Delmarva (10)

Avery endured a terrible slump in early July but came on strong toward the end of the month, hitting .333 in his last 10 games. The 19-year-old speedster has been gunned down just once in his past 15 stolen base attempts.

10. Steven Johnson , RHP, Bowie (NR)

Johnson, 21, came over from the Dodgers along with Bell in the Sherrill trade about a week after being promoted to Double-A. He struggles with command at times but has a 3.61 ERA and 117 K's in 107 1/3 innings this year.


BEST OF THE REST

11. Tim Bascom , RHP, Bowie (13)
12. Kyle Hudson , OF, Delmarva (16)
13. Brandon Waring , 1B/3B, Frederick (9)
14. Chorye Spoone , RHP, GCL Orioles - Rehab (14)
15. Wilfrido Perez , LHP, Bowie - 7-Day DL (11)
16. Joseph Mahoney , 1B, Delmarva (17)
17. Justin Turner , 2B, Norfolk (18)
18. Luis Lebron , RHP, Bowie (12)
19. Bobby Bundy , RHP, Bluefield (15)
20. Oliver Drake , RHP, Delmarva (20)
21. L.J. Hoes , 2B, Delmarva (NR)
22. Matt Angle , OF, Frederick (25)
23. Ronnie Welty , OF, Delmarva (NR)
24. Pat Egan , RHP, Frederick, (NR)
25. Brandon Cooney , RHP, Delmarva (NR)


WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Chris Tillman , RHP (2)

DROPPED OUT: Blake Davis , SS, Norfolk (19); Rick Zagone , LHP, Frederick (21); Ryan Adams , 2B, Frederick (22); Pedro Florimon Jr. , SS, Frederick (23); Cole McCurry , LHP, Delmarva (24)

 

June 2009 Orioles Prospect Rankings
July 2009 Orioles Prospect Rankings


Posted on: June 4, 2009 1:11 am
 

Prospect Q&A - Brandon Waring, Orioles

The offseason trade that sent catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for since-departed utility man Ryan Freel and minor leaguers Justin Turner and Brandon Waring was noteworthy at first glance primarily because it cleared Matt Wieters ' path to the majors. But while Freel's tenure with the Baltimore Orioles was brief and forgettable, the 24-year-old Turner is playing well enough in Triple-A to warrant consideration for a future in the Orioles' infield and Waring, 23, has emerged as the power-hitting corner infield prospect the organization so sorely lacked.

Waring missed most of his sophomore season at Wofford with a broken wrist, then burst onto the scene as a junior in 2007 by finishing second in NCAA Division I with 27 home runs. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound South Carolina native hit .311 with another 20 homers in 68 games for Rookie-level Billings that summer after the Reds made him a seventh-round pick and followed that up with a .270/20/71 line last season for Class A Dayton. But with Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion at first and third respectively and corner infield prospects Yonder Alonso , Neftali Soto and Juan Francisco in the fold, the Reds decided Waring was expendable when they found themselves in need of a catcher.

Waring appears destined to make the Reds regret that decision. He's currently hitting .292 for the advanced Class A Frederick Keys and ranks seventh in the Carolina League in both home runs (8) and RBI (33). Waring played mostly third base in the Reds organization but has made a smooth transition to first base this season, with a .993 fielding percentage in 43 games there. He still gets the occasional start at third, however, and has made just one error in 11 appearances at the hot corner. Waring's biggest weakness at this point is his propensity to strike out. He has fanned 45 times in 185 at bats this season after racking up 156 strikeouts in 441 at bats last season.

I had the chance to speak with Waring on Tuesday night after his Keys lost 6-1 to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates -affiliated Lynchburg Hillcats at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, Md.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned you'd been traded from the Reds to the Orioles?

A: At first I was surprised - it kind of came out of nowhere. But everything happens for a reason. I was excited about the new opportunity with the new club. The Reds were kind of stacked at the corner positions and the Orioles weren't quite as deep, so I was excited about it.

Q: Could you talk about your experience in transitioning from one organization to another so early in your pro career?

A: Heading down to spring training I was excited and anxious at the same time; I didn't really know what to expect. But everything went smoothly. It's the same game, the same goal of getting to the big leagues. All the guys were nice - I met some good friends early and all the coaches took to me, and it's been good since.

Q: Do you generally step up to the plate with a plan, or do you just trust your reactions?

A: I usually have a plan in mind according to the situation - how many outs, where the runners are and whatnot - and then just try to see a ball up in the zone that I can hit.

Q: You played mostly third base in the Reds organization but you've played mostly first base this season for Frederick. Where do you think you'll end up in the long run?

A: I played a little bit of first base last year, and then this year they called me and told me I was going play the majority [of the time] at first, just because [the versatility] makes you more valuable down the road. They're not taking third base away from me; I think I'm playing [Wednesday] night at third. I'm getting more comfortable [at first] as it goes on; I feel good over there. But I still feel like I can play some third too, so hopefully my future will be both positions, wherever I'm needed.

Click here to continue reading Brandon Waring's Prospect Q&A on The Washington Times' National Pastime

Posted on: June 1, 2009 12:20 am
 

June 2009 Orioles Prospect Rankings

From The Washington Times' National Pastime

For the first time in a long time, it's exciting to be a Baltimore Orioles fan. Homegrown talents Matt Wieters , Nolan Reimold , David Hernandez , Jason Berken and Brad Bergesen are giving long-suffering O's supporters hope for a bright future, and reinforcements are on the way from what has quickly become one of baseball's better farm systems.

These rankings take several factors into consideration, including but not limited to minor league success, long-term potential and age. To keep the definition of "prospect" as simple as possible, any player with Major League experience is ineligible for inclusion - sorry, Troy Patton , Kam Mickolio and Bob McCrory . Here we go ...

 

CREAM OF THE CROP

1. Brian Matusz , LHP, Frederick

The 6-foot-5 southpaw has outclassed the advanced Class A competition, posting a 2.37 ERA and 69-to-20 K-to-walk ratio in his first 60 2/3 pro innings. A promotion to Double-A Bowie can't be far off for the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft.

2. Chris Tillman , RHP, Norfolk

The 21-year-old picked up five straight wins and put his command issues in the rear-view before a groin strain forced him from his last start after two innings. The injury isn't considered serious, and he's probably next in line for a big league rotation spot.

3. Jake Arrieta , RHP, Bowie

The O's gave Arrieta a fifth-round record $1.1 million bonus in 2007 and that investment is looking better all the time. The 2007 Carolina League pitcher of the Year has a 2.98 ERA through nine starts and ranks second in the Eastern League with 56 K's.

4. Brandon Snyder , 1B, Bowie

Snyder enjoyed a breakout season for Frederick in 2008 and the momentum has carried over to 2009. The 2005 first-rounder needs some work at first base, but he ranks second in the Eastern League in RBI (38) and third in average (.342) and homers (9).

5. Zach Britton , LHP, Frederick

The 21-year-old lefty had a fine first full pro season for Delmarva in 2008 and currently ranks fourth in the Carolina League with a 2.45 ERA and sixth with 47 K's. Mediocre command (26 walks in 47 2/3 innings) remains an issue for the 2007 third-rounder.

6. Brandon Erbe , RHP, Bowie

Erbe was throwing very well (0.90 ERA, 19 K's in 20 innings, .153 opponents' batting average) before shoulder fatigue shut him down after four starts. The 21-year-old has top-shelf stuff but must iron out his command issues once he is able to return to action.

7. Caleb Joseph , C, Frederick

The 2008 seventh-rounder would be considered the catcher of the future in any other organization. He performed well for Aberdeen in his pro debut and has handled the jump to Frederick admirably, with a .326 average three homers and 24 RBI in 36 games.

8. Xavier Avery , OF, Delmarva

The 19-year-old was viewed as somewhat raw when the O's made him a second-rounder last year, but he has held his own in his first taste of full-season ball with a .280 average through 46 games. The eight caught stealings in 18 attempts is troubling, though.

9. Wilfrido Perez , LHP, Bowie

Iffy command hasn't prevented the 6-foot, 145-pound lefty reliever from quietly dominating the competition at every minor league level so far. The 24-year-old has a 1.77 ERA and 25 K's in 20 1/3 innings this year, and opponents are hitting just .134 off him.

10. Rick Zagone , LHP, Delmarva

Zagone, a 2008 sixth-rounder, has dominated the mostly younger and less experienced South Atlantic League competition to the tune of a 1.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 52-to-17 K-to-walk ratio in 51 2/3 innings. It's clearly time for a promotion to Frederick.

 

BEST OF THE REST

11. Luis Lebron , RHP, Frederick

12. Brandon Waring , 1B, Frederick

13. Chorye Spoone , RHP, Frederick

14. Kyle Hudson , OF, Delmarva

15. Joseph Mahoney , 1B, Delmarva

16. Billy Rowell , OF, Frederick

17. Oliver Drake , RHP, Delmarva

18. Bobby Bundy , RHP, Extended Spring Training

19. Pedro Beato , RHP, Frederick

20. Ryan Adams , 2B, Frederick

21. Blake Davis , SS, Norfolk

22. L.J. Hoes , 2B, Delmarva

23. Justin Turner , 2B, Norfolk

24. Cole McCurry , LHP, Delmarva

25. Tim Bascom , RHP, Frederick

Posted on: May 28, 2009 3:07 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2009 3:11 pm
 

Welcome to the show, Matt Wieters

In the April 1, 1985, issue of Sports Illustrated, George Plimpton introduced the world to mysterious New York Mets phenom Sidd Finch . The 28-year-old eccentric had dropped out of Harvard and traveled to Tibet to learn "yogic mastery of the mind-body," which allowed him to throw an absurd 168 miles per hour. Many fans were understandably disappointed when Sports Illustrated reported in its next issue that Finch had retired from baseball. The following week, the magazine confirmed that the Sidd Finch tale was nothing more than an unusually creative April Fools joke.

Nearly a quarter-century later, rumors spread about a linebacker-sized catcher with an arm that would make many NFL quarterbacks jealous. Some speculated that this freak of nature could one day be a big league batting champ, while others who watched him launch moon shots from both sides of the plate saw home run titles in his future. The Baltimore Orioles gave him $6 million before he played a single professional game in hopes that he could be the one to restore the franchise to its past glory. Though it will be nearly impossible for him to live up to the hype, Matt Wieters is not a hoax, and he's set to make his Major League debut Friday night when the O's take on the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards.

Wieters, the 2008 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, was summoned from Triple-A after hitting .343 with 32 home runs and 132 RBI in 169 minor league games. Orioles manager Dave Trembley made clear after Wednesday's game that Wieters - who had a .305 average and five homers in 39 games this season for the Norfolk Tides - isn't coming up to sit on the bench. "I'm going to write his name in the lineup and he's going to play," Trembley said. "I'm not going to tell you where I'll bat him in the lineup. You'll see it. He's going to play. He's coming up here to play."

As baseball fans await the most anticipated positional player debut in recent memory, let's take a look back at where Wieters' head was at last May, just several weeks into his pro career. I had the chance to speak with the Georgia Tech product and Goose Creek, S.C., native after his Frederick Keys played an afternoon home game, and he talked about his adjustment to pro ball, his approach at the plate and one of his baseball role models.

Q: When you heard you had been drafted by the Orioles, what was your first reaction? Were you excited?

A: Oh yeah. The dream since you're a little kid is to play Major League Baseball , and any team you play for is a great experience. Baltimore, being on the East Coast and close to home (Goose Creek, S.C.), it just seemed like a good fit.

Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you try to model yourself after?

A: Chipper Jones was always my guy growing up because he's a switch-hitter and the Braves games are on TV a lot, so I grew up watching him and I try to model my swing sort of like his.

Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you come into an at-bat looking for a specific pitch, or do you just kind of react to what's thrown?

A: Well, what you've got to do, early, especially - is look for a pitch you can hit and then later, if you get two strikes, you're going to just have to battle. I think that's the approach most times going into at-bats - looking for a pitch you can hit hard, and then going into battle mode.

Q: To what extent do you utilize videotape and scouting reports when preparing to face a certain pitcher?

A: Scouting reports are huge, especially because in this league you see guys, sometimes, some pitchers, four and five times, so it's good to be able to remember what they threw you and that sort of thing. Videotape, it's not as accessible in Minor League Baseball , but at the same time, any time you can get your hands on it, you're happy to look at it.

Click here to continue reading this article on The Washington Times' National Pastime

Posted on: May 22, 2009 1:06 am
 

Q&A - Pedro Alvarez, Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates famously passed on Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft because of his record bonus demands and instead selected left-hander Daniel Moskos with the fourth overall pick. The gaffe proved to be the final straw for General Manager Dave Littlefield, who was fired two months later, and while Moskos scuffled in advanced Class A last season, Wieters - taken with the very next pick by the Baltimore Orioles - slugged his way to Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year honors. Given that backdrop, it came as no surprise when new GM Neal Huntington took Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez , the best hitting prospect available, with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft despite reports that Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, was seeking a $9 million major league contract.

The Pirates knew contentious negotiations were in store, but they appeared to be over when the club announced just moments before the Aug. 15 signing deadline that Alvarez had agreed to a minor league deal that included a $6 million bonus. 12 days later, however, Boras claimed the deal hadn't been reached until 12:02 a.m. - two minutes after the deadline. The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on Alvarez's behalf, but the two sides ended up settling the matter on Sept. 24, effectively nullifying the grievance. Alvarez ended up getting a four-year major league deal worth a guaranteed $6.355 million. The dragged-out talks delayed his pro debut until this season, but he did take part in fall instructional league.

Only a broken hamate bone suffered early in his junior season kept Alvarez from being a three-time All-American at Vanderbilt, and his success in the competitive Southeastern Conference prompted the Pirates to have him skip a few minor league levels and begin his professional career with the advanced Class A Lynchburg Hillcats this season. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder ranks second in the Carolina League in both home runs (eight) and RBI (34), but is hitting just .232 with 41 strikeouts in his first 142 professional at bats. Despite his so-so start, the Pirates expect the 22-year-old to find his stroke sooner rather than later and become a fixture in the middle of their order within the next few years.

I had a chance to speak with Alvarez - who entered this season ranked as the top prospect in the Pirates organization and the 12th best in all of baseball by Baseball America - on Tuesday night after his Hillcats beat the Orioles-affiliated Frederick Keys 2-1 at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, Md.

Q: You were drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school (14th round, 2005) but chose to attend Vanderbilt instead. Was that a difficult decision for you? And why did you decide to go the college route?

A: It was difficult. I grew up a Red Sox fan because of my dad, but I thought that, at the time, I wasn't ready for [pro ball], and college was the best fit for me. It just so happened to work out that way.

Q: Your contract negotiations with the Pirates went right up to the signing deadline last summer. Were you confident all along that a deal would get done, or did you start to consider other options?

A: I knew that everything was going to work out, and I'm glad that I'm here now and I'm playing.

Q: What is the biggest adjustment you've had to make going from college to pro ball?

A: Playing every day. Playing every day and having a routine and sticking with it every day.

Q: Do you step up to the plate with a plan, or do you just trust your reactions?

A: You know, you go up there with an approach and try to stick to your approach. Sometimes you have to adjust according to the pitcher, depending on how good he's throwing that day, and sometimes you can just stick with your approach. For the most part, I go up there with my own plan.

Click here to continue reading Pedro Alvarez's Q&A on The Washington Times' National Pastime
 
 
 
 
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