Baltimore's Matt Wieters seemingly hasn't got much attention as prospect watchers fix their gaze upon the next "Next Big Thing." Considering that he was billed as a switch-hitting Joe Mauer with power and inspired his own Chuck Norris-style facts page, Wieters' .265 average, .329 OBP and .431 slugging percentage in 2011 look tame.
Yet, that assessment doesn't take into account the fact that run scoring has taken a nosedive in recent years (from over 4.8 per AL team when Wieters debuted in 2009 to 4.4 this season) and that finding a catcher with an offensive pulse is easier said than done. Wieters is enjoying one of the best seasons of any player at his position this season, posting an adjusted OPS that is eight percent better than average and ranking third among MLB backstops with 3.2 Wins Above Replacement.
The 25-year-old's breakout season is due to his giving left-handed pitchers a collective round-house kick. Wieters slugged .344 versus lefties during his first two years in the majors, rarely driving pitches unless they were down the middle or belt-high:
In 2011, however, he's killing it from the right side of the plate:
Wieters is slugging .631 against lefties this year. After punching a Brett Cecil changeup over the fence last night, he has now hit seven homers versus left-handers. He hit five combined in '09-'10 in about 2.5 times as many at-bats.
Small sample size issues abound with platoon stats, but Wieters seems to have a fundamentally better approach against left-handers these days. Chasing fewer pitches and making more contact, Wieters has walked in about 13 percent of his plate appearances versus left-handers and struck out 23 percent of the time after walking six percent and whiffing 27 percent the two previous years.
His production might not match up with the mythic status bestowed upon him as a prospect, but the real Matt Wieters is pretty darned good in his own right. Most teams would kill for a mid-twenties catcher who can hurt pitchers from both sides of the plate.