Washington Nationals: Matt Wieters showing signs of improvement

Jun 24, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters (32) hits an RBI against the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters (32) hits an RBI against the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters had an excellent month of April, but has since struggled. He has shown signs of improvement recently.

Matt Wieters signed with the Washington Nationals ten days after pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. Since he got a late start and had to learn an entire pitching staff, many people speculated that he would get off to a slow start to the season.

The opposite actually occurred; Wieters got off to an outstanding start to the season and was an integral part of the potent Nats lineup throughout April. He hit .301, which was the second-highest April batting average of his career. He also hit four homers, which was the second-most for April throughout his career. Although he has hit more than four homers in April in the past, he used to play in a very hitter-friendly Camden Yards, so this April was at least equally impressive.

Once the calendar flipped to May, Wieters quickly plummeted. His May batting average was .247, 54 points below his April batting average, and he didn’t hit a single homer all month. On top of struggling at the plate, he also struggled a bit behind it.

June has not been much better for Wieters. In 19 games, he has a .222/.243/.361 slash line with two homers. His defense has also been so-so at best.

More from District on Deck

However, he has been showing signs of improvement over the last few days. In his last three games, he has raised his batting average eight points, his on-base percentage eight points, and his slugging percentage four points.

Wieters has hit successfully in his last three games, including back-to-back multi-hit games. He has also scored and recorded at least one RBI in back-to-back games.

He played especially well on Monday night against the Cubs. For more on this game, check out the post-game DoDCast hosted by myself, Ricky Keeler, and Ron Juckett.

On Monday night, Wieters went 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored, and an RBI. The double was especially encouraging, considering he had not recorded an extra base hit in over a week.

In addition to improvement offensively, Wieters also showed signs of improvement on defense. Gio Gonzalez started for the Nats on Monday night, so Wieters got quite a bit of work behind the plate.

Gonzalez features a “Bugs Bunny” curveball, which he likes to throw in the dirt with two strikes. Because of this, Wieters had lots of blocking opportunities. Gonzalez can also be a bit erratic at times, so Wieters had his work cut out for him. He did an outstanding job, not allowing a single passed ball.

Wieters has struggled with passed balls this year, allowing four in the first three months of the season. Over the last two seasons combined, he only allowed three with an inferior pitching staff in Baltimore.

Another positive from Wieters’ night on Monday was the fact that he threw out a runner attempting to steal. This year, he has only thrown out 21% of runners attempting to steal, which is much lower than his 32% career average.

While Wieters has shown signs of improvement, he still has room for further improvement, especially offensively. One possible easy fix would be to move him back to the eight-hole.

Wieters hit in the eight-hole for most of April, but when Adam Eaton‘s injury made Michael Taylor an everyday player, Wieters moved up to the seven-hole. In 18 games batting eighth, Wieters has hit .345 with five homers. In 30 games batting seventh, he has hit .240 with one homer. Taylor has been a much better hitter lately, so it makes even more sense to move him in front of Wieters.

Next: Nats sign Francisco Rodriguez

After getting off to a hot start in April, Wieters has struggled on both sides of the ball. He has shown signs of improvement lately and the Nats would love to get the Wieters from April back. If he can return to form, he adds great depth to the Nats’ lineup and provides an excellent veteran presence behind the plate.