The Orioles bucked recent tradition, selecting Georgia Tech product, and Scott Boras client, Matthew Wieters with the fifth overall pick in the amateur draft. Wieters, a switch-hitting catcher, was widely considered one of the top talents in the draft, but concerns about his signability clouded where he would be taken in the draft.
“Obviously, we got past that,” explained Director of Scouting Joe Jordan. “We had a lot of discussion; I’ve spoken with the Boras Corporation. We felt like, at the end of the day, this guy’s playing and he’s going to be part of the history [in Baltimore].”
“We’ll see [how tough he is to sign] once we get into it,” clarified Vice President of Baseball Operations Mike Flanagan. “The idea is to get the player you want and then get him signed. These things take time, but we have that August 15th deadline, so it should be a quicker process than we’ve had in the past.”
Nevertheless, the Boras factor will play a role in the weeks and months to come.
“I think there will be some [difficulty in the signing process],” explained Jordan. “But we wouldn’t have selected him if we didn’t think he would be out there playing at some point in the summer and be part of our organization’s plans going forward.”
With no second or third round pick, the Orioles wanted to be extra careful with their first selection.
“Since high school, I’d say I’ve seen him play 25-30 times,” said Jordan. “He’s an advanced defensive catcher and, I think it goes without saying, the fact that he’s a switch-hitter; again, it’s a wonderful pick for us and for our organization.”
Wieters’ offensive prowess is what made him an elite talent.
“He’s a hitter first. I met with Matt during the ACC tournament and the thing that I was impressed with was his description of himself and it was more of a hitter. To me, that’s what he needs to be. He’s a big guy and there’s natural leverage. If he goes out and thinks of himself as a hitter, the numbers are going to be there.”
At 6’5’’, Wieters has a tall frame for a catcher, but that doesn’t concern Jordan.
“Not when you watch him play. It’s not prototypical; there aren’t many taller catchers. There are some, there have been some, and this guy’s done it for three years in college.”
“His defensive ability is going to allow him to move quickly. We think the bat is just a bat that needs minor league at bats. He needs to swing a wooden bat for a while. Everything together, this guy should be on an accelerated pace.”
“Pitchers love to throw to this guy. He’s not a vocal, throw his bat type of guy, but every pitcher I’ve talked to, the coaches at Georgia Tech; this guy is a leader.”
As one of the most advanced talents in this year’s draft, Wieters has the potential to move quickly through the minor leagues and you can be sure that you won’t see him in any rookie-ball lineups.
“[What level we start Wieters out at] depends on when we get him signed. If he signs in the next thirty days, I think Matt, whether it was one of the full-season A-ball clubs… I think that’s an organizational decision. It all depends on when he signs and how long it’s been since he’s had live at bats.”
Added Flanagan, “[Where he starts] depends on when he signs. The first-rounders, at times, take a little bit longer to get signed. If he signs early, maybe he’ll kick around double-A. If not, an A-ball team for a little while until he gets used to the wooden bat. I don’t foresee him signing right away.”
In 2005, the Orioles made catcher Brandon Snyder their first round selection. After a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2006, he has largely been playing first base and designated hitter for the low-A Delmarva Shorebirds this season, but the Orioles have previously claimed that he would move back behind the plate in 2008. While Wieters may impact Snyder’s long-term position, Joe Jordan remains unconcerned.
“I think both bats will play. From an organizational standpoint, we will have to look at it as it relates to Brandon, but his bat’s going to be fine and his bat’s going to hit in a major league lineup.”
The Orioles may not have another selection until the fourth round, but it would be hard to ask for more at this point in the draft.
“I’m very glad, very happy, and I’m glad it’s over,” explained Jordan. “It’s exciting and, obviously, we got a guy that was very high on our board.”
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com