Washington Nationals: Matt Wieters’ 2017 report card


Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters struggled mightily in his first season in the nation’s capital. What grade does he deserve?

When Wilson Ramos departed in free agency after the 2016 season, the Washington Nationals suddenly had a need for a new starting catcher. They acquired Derek Norris in a trade with the San Diego Padres, but continued to monitor the catcher’s market.

Shortly after Spring Training got underway, the Nats signed free agent catcher Matt Wieters. He had big shoes to fill in replacing Ramos, but he was a former all-star and the Nats believed he could handle it.

However, Wieters’ first season with the Nats was largely a disappointment. He got off to a great start, hitting .301 with four homers in April, but it was all downhill from there.

Throughout April, Wieters appeared to be a tremendous acquisition. He was absolutely raking, and it became apparent that he would decline his player option after the season and test the free agent market.

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Unfortunately for the Nats, Wieters’ production was mostly limited to the season’s first month. If you remove his April, he hit just .166 with six homers.

Catchers are not typically great hitters, which is forgiven as long as they are solid defensively. However, similar to at the plate, Wieters struggled behind it. According to Baseball Prospectus, Wieters cost the Nats 13.6 runs with his framing, which was third-worst in the league.

Runners were also able to run all over Wieters. While some of this can be attributed to pitchers doing a poor job of holding runners, Wieters allowed the fourth-most stolen bases in the league.

While most of Wieters’ defensive metrics point to him being a horrific defensive catcher, he made his biggest impact behind the plate. Gio Gonzalez had a tremendous bounce-back season in 2017, finishing sixth in voting for the National League Cy Young Award, which has partially been accredited to Wieters.

In previous seasons, Gonzalez took a long time between pitches, which caused him to be erratic at times. While working with Wieters, he sped up considerably, which led to much better results. Gonzalez is now back to his Cy Young form, and the Nats may have Wieters to thank for that.

After Wieters’ disastrous 2017 campaign, he exercised his 2018 player option, which means he will return in 2018. 2017 was by far the worst season of his career, and there is hope that he will improve in 2018, but the Nats do not appear to be willing to take that chance.

Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post recently reported that the Nats plan to play Wieters less in 2018. If this is the case, the Nats will likely acquire a new starting catcher this off-season and Wieters will be relegated to back-up duties.

Whatever happens in 2018, Wieters will be paid $10.5 million. This is a hefty price for arguably the worst catcher in the league in 2017, so the Nats have to hope that he will return to form in 2018.

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After signing with the Nats early in Spring Training, Matt Wieters’ first season in the nation’s capital was disastrous. He may improve in 2018, but he gets a D for his 2017 campaign.