In our penultimate 2018 Report Card, we look at catcher Matt Wieters. He ended his two-year spell with the Washington Nationals in underwhelming fashion.
In the penultimate edition of our 2018 Report Cards, Matt Wieters comes under the spotlight. The Washington Nationals initially picked him up, hoping to be a one-year bargain, but he couldn’t live up to the hype.
In his two seasons in the nation’s capital, he slashed a measly .230/.303/.355 which led to a wRC+ of just 72. With the league average wRC+ sitting at 100 it means Wieters was a far below average threat in the box, as other players at that mark in the past two seasons include Erick Aybar and Chris Carter.
We break down the positives abd negatives from the backstop’s 2018 season below. Somewhat surprisingly, the first positive note is about his bat, which may not have been quite as bad as it seemed towards the end of the year.
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The Positives for Wieters
At the very least, Wieters did appear to find his hitting stroke late in 2018. It appeared as if he made a small mechanical change to his swing to get his bat to the ball a bit quicker, and it paid dividends. Between August 5th and the end of the season, Wieters’ hit .282 to go with five home runs, 19 RBI and a solid .819 OPS, which led to a 120 wRC+. That was the sort of production the team hoped for from the catcher the whole time he was with the team, but at least he flashed it towards the end and should earn himself a major league deal somewhere, either in D.C. or elsewhere.
While some of the defensive metrics don’t paint all that kind of a picture for Matt Wieters, his pitching staff were always very complimentary of his skills behind the plate. Max Scherzer told Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports about a lesser known quality of his. “Those little foul tips just add to collecting strikeouts. He does a wonderful job behind the plate, and he deserves a lot of credit for this”. While there’s no metric for catching slight foul tips, some of the more experienced pitchers always seemed more comfortable throwing to Wieters than say Pedro Severino or Spencer Kieboom.
Areas for Improvement
While usually, teams can absorb having a black hole in terms of offense at the catcher position, when Wieters had the fifth highest annual average salary among catcher, the team needed better. Hitting just .238 and with an OPS of .704 by the end of the season as well as an 89 wRC+, despite that prolonged hot streak, again comes off as underwhelming. Perhaps some of this can be put down the health concerns, which we’ll go onto next, and the fact his best baseball came at the end of the year when he was healthy. But regardless of the cause, consistency at the plate will be key to him staying in the big leagues in the future.
Other than the obvious deficiencies with the bat, Wieters really struggled to stay healthy in 2018. He ended up missing time with a mild left oblique strain and then a left hamstring strain this year and even admitted that a lot of it is down to wear and tear. He told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post that “I don’t think I’ll ever be a 130-game, 140-game catcher. At this point in the year, I don’t think it’s optimal for the body to do that. But I’d be willing to catch two or three pitchers and go from there”. Even the best catchers wear down with age, as Joe Mauer has proven recently, so it’s no surprise that Wieters is getting to the same stage.
The Final Grade
If it were one of the Nats rookie catcher coming through and having the type of season that Matt Wieters had, the narrative would be completely different. However, given how much the former Baltimore Oriole was earning, 2018 goes in the books as a disappointment.
After a nightmare two years, Wieters will likely be looking for a major league minimum deal to sit in a timeshare or even be a backup. That, unfortunately, was the level he played at it 2018, and his grade reflects that. D+
Remember to keep an eye out for more Washington Nationals 2018 Report Cards during the upcoming weeks here at District on Deck.