With just about two weeks until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, most teams have their rosters set (or pretty close to it) so I thought it'd be interesting to see how the O's stack up with the rest of the division one position at a time. Catcher seems like the best place to start since it is the home position of one Matthew Richard Wieters, the young man sent to rescue Orioles fans from 12 years of suffering.
Ranked from best to worst, they are:
1. Matt Wieters (Orioles) - As Wieters goes into his second year, you have to think that the hype train will have slowed down some. It took Wieters some time to get up to speed in 2009 as he learned a new pitching staff and a new league, but he really turned it on in the final month and looks primed for a great 2010. He'll be 24 years old this year which is six years younger than the next oldest catcher in the AL East and he could possibly outperform them all in 2010. I refuse to believe otherwise.
2. Victor Martinez (Red Sox) - Traded to the Red Sox from the Indians at the trading deadline in '09, Martinez is an offensive threat behind the plate who is not generally known for his defense. Early in his career Martinez was strictly a catcher but in 2006 started splitting time at 1B. In 2009 he played more games at 1B (68) and less games at C (83) than in any other year when he played a full season. If I had to venture a guess I'd say his time at 1B will be much less in 2010 since the corners in Boston are being manned by Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre, but at 31 years old he should be able to put in plenty of time behind the plate. Martinez is a huge upgrade over Jason Varitek with a career batting line of .299/.372/.465 (wOBA .360). Since becoming a full time player in 2004 Martinez has only had one season with an OPS+ of less than 122, and that was in 2008 when he dealt with injuries and only played 73 games.
3. Jorge Posada (Yankees) - When the Yankees made it back to the World Series in 2009, someone coined the oh so witty phrase of "the core four" to describe Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte, as those four are the remaining members of the 1990s Yankee dynasty. All four players had a great year in '09 but they're all also getting pretty old, Posada in particular. Posada will be 38 in 2010 which for a starting catcher is ancient. His offensive resurgance of 2009 was due in part to the move to New Yankee Stadium as he hit .325/.400/.613 at home and just .245/.327/.432 on the road. He only played in 111 games (with 9 at DH and 2 at 1B) in 2009 and I'd expect a similar amount in 2010 as he deals with old man injuries.
4. Kelly Shoppach (Rays) - The Indians traded Martinez to the Red Sox last July and Shoppach to the Rays in December so I have no idea who is going to be behind the plate in Cleveland in 2010. Considering the depth chart on their official site has four catchers on it I'm guessing they're not sure themselves. The Rays needed to upgrade at catcher and they did a good job with Shoppach. Dioner Navarro is just an awful hitter and ZAUN moved on to greener pastures in Milawaukee. Shoppach played second fiddle to Victor Martinez in Cleveland but in the only year he ever received regular playing time (in '08, due to Martinez' injury) he hit .261/.348/.517 with 21 HR in 112 games. Over his career he has hit a home run once every 24 plate appearances (1043 career PA). It's possible Shoppach could have a big year in Tampa Bay. I wouldn't be surprised if he outperforms Posada, honestly.
5. John Buck (Blue Jays) - John Buck spent the last six seasons in Kansas City but was released following the 2009 season (the Royals had to make room for Jason Kendall, after all). When my friends and I impersonate Royals fans, my friend Anthony wears a John Buck t-shirt, so he was understandably distraught when Buck and the Royals parted ways. His suggestion for our Third Annual Impersonate a Royals Fan Weekend was to go to Toronto when the Royals are playing the Blue Jays and yell to John Buck that he'll never forget him. Anyway, John Buck...is not very good. He has a career OBP of .298, he can't hit for average, and he's not really much for defense. I swear you guys, the Blue Jays are gonna be horrible this year. If the Orioles finish behind them I might cry.
One position down and the Orioles look to be in pretty good shape! Think we should just stop here?