One of the more delayed free agent signings of the offseason was four-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters joining the Washington Nationals. Waiting until February 24 to ink a one-year, $10.5 million contract with a player option for the same amount for 2018, Wieters has delivered so far through the first two weeks of the regular season. He has done this while batting at the bottom of the ‘Nats lineup, a spot that he might soon find his way out of.
While he brought a proven track record, Wieters has been tasked with replacing Wilson Ramos behind the plate for Washington. Ramos was enjoying a career-year in 2016, earning an All-Star nod for the first time by hitting over 20 home runs and batting over .300, before tearing his ACL on September 26. Now on the disabled list of the Tampa Bay Rays, Ramos’ heir apparent has picked up right where Ramos left off.
Wieters left the only organization he’s ever known in the Baltimore Orioles after nine years in the bigs. A first round pick in 2007, Wieters had lofty expectations. Injuries has derailed the last three years of his career, but he somehow still found himself on two more American League All-Star teams during that time. His spot on the 2014 squad is pretty reprehensible, as he only played 26 all year, and none after May 10. That said, when healthy, he has proven to be one of the best catchers in the game, winning two Gold Gloves and hitting over 20 homers each year from 2011-2013.
Spring was definitely an adjustment period for Wieters, as he batted .143 with only two extra base hits in 14 games. Since the games have counted for real, he has been on fire thus far at the plate. Catching Stephen Strasburg for the first time on Opening Day, Wieters and his pitching staff held the Miami Marlins to two runs, while he collected his first hit. In that game, he batted eighth in the order, a product of Washington’s deep lineup. Wieters probably shouldn’t have been penciled in behind Stephen Drew, who I actually can’t believe is still a major league ballplayer, but that’s story for another time.
Wieters has batted eighth in his first eight games, before finally being moved up to the seventh spot against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 12. It may be time to bring him further up in the lineup. He went 3-3 with four total bases and two RBI against Miami on April 5, and went a combined 4-7 in two games against the Cardinals on April 10-11, connecting for his first home run as a National. As of April 13, he is hitting .370 with a .485 OBP. This is not even the highest on the club, thanks to sizzling starts from Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy, who are batting .382 and.450, respectfully, through the first nine games.
With only Jose Lobaton behind him as the backup backstop, a healthy Wieters should receive ample playing time, and make a push to earn All-Star status for the fifth time. If he keeps up the pace he has shown in this small sample size, the ‘Nats will pray that he enacts his player option for next season.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Washington Nationals article is published, fill out our email notification form.