Since the Major League team is virtually unwatchable at this point, let's take a look at everyone's favorite prospect, Matt Wieters.
I'm sure most O's fans have at least a passing familiarity with what he's done in the minors this year, but I like to look at his numbers, so here they are:
A+/AA (Age 22): .350/.452/.597 (1.049 OPS) 26 HR, 88 RBI, 81/72 BB/K
Those are just insane numbers. To put those in perspective, below are some top ranked hitting prospects by Baseball America over the last few years along with their stats in the prior season.
Jay Bruce (#1 in 2008)
A+/AA/AAA (Age 20): .319/.375/.587 (.962 OPS) 26 HR, 89 RBI, 47/135 BB/K
Evan Longoria (#2 in 2008)
AA/AAA (Age 21): .299/.402/.520 (.922 OPS) 26 HR, 95 RBI, 73/110 BB/K
Alex Gordon (#2 in 2007)
AA (Age 22): .325/.427/.588 (1.015 OPS) 29 HR, 101 RBI, 72/113 BB/K
Brandon Wood (#3 in 2006)
A+ (Age 20): .321/.383/.672 (1.055 OPS) 43 HR, 116 RBI, 48/134 BB/K
Joe Mauer (#1 in 2004/2005)
A+/AA (Age 20): .338/.396/.434 (.830 OPS) 5 HR, 85 RBI, 49/49 BB/K
Wieters hit for a higher average than any of these guys, and he showed as much power as all of them but Wood. His plate discipline is where he really shines, though.
He walked more than any of these other elite hitters, and was the only hitter to have more walks than strikeouts. He had fewer strikeouts than everyone but Mauer, and that's an important indicator of how easily a minor league hitter will transition to the majors, which is why Mauer had an easier time than some of the others.
Wieters also provides as much or more defensive value as any of these other guys. The only knock against Wieters is that he was a little old for his leagues compared to some of these other guys, but there's a pretty strong case for calling Wieters the best hitting prospect in the last 5 years.
Wieters is flying a bit under the radar on the national level right now, but I think that will change in the offseason. He's likely to receive multiple player-of-the-year awards and he's likely to be ranked as the #1 prospect by Baseball America.
So, how should the Orioles handle him next year? He's not getting called up this September, and I recently read a quote from Trembley that indicated he won't be guaranteed the starting spot out of spring training. The writing on the wall is that the Orioles plan to play the service time game with Wieters just like the Rays did with Longoria.
If Wieters breaks camp with the Orioles next spring and never sees the minor leagues again, he'll be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. However, due to a quirk of the system, if he stays in the minor leagues for just two weeks next year, he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season.
It's probably the smart move from an organizational perspective, but it is a little on the sneaky side, and the Orioles will have to come up with a reason for Wieters to spend a little time in AAA. I'm guessing something along the lines of "he needs to work on his footwork" or "he needs a little more experience calling games" or some other nonsense.
The real downside is that the Orioles will need a catcher other than Wieters on opening day 2009. That may mean they will decide to hold on to Ramon Hernandez, or they may just try to pretend that Quiroz is a starting catcher. It should be an interesting storyline to watch.
One last piece of Wieters news: The Orioles are sending him to the Arizona Fall League along with Brandon Snyder and Nolan Reimold. No word on Brian Matusz, but the Orioles haven't announced which pitchers they are sending.
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