O's tab catcher with first pick
Wieters earned reputation as one of college's best pure hitters
BALTIMORE -- The more the Orioles saw Matt Wieters, the more they were sold that his talent outweighed any concerns about his signability. Baltimore selected Wieters with the fifth overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, a choice director of scouting Joe Jordan termed "as close to a consensus as you can get."
Wieters, a switch-hitter, is believed to be a fast-riser capable of reaching the big leagues within two or three seasons. He finished his college career with a .358 batting average and a .477 on-base percentage at Georgia Tech, where he followed Boston's Jason Varitek as the only All-American catchers in school history.
"I think his defensive ability is going to allow him to move quickly," Jordan said of Wieters, whose plus arm allowed him to also serve as closer at Georgia Tech. "We think the bat is just a bat that needs Minor League at-bats. He needs to swing the wooden bat for a while, but everything together, this guy should be on an accelerated pace."
Wieters was very consistent during his college career, batting above .350 with 10 homers or more in all three of his college seasons. He also reached base in 55 consecutive games this year and finished sixth in school history in doubles (54), seventh in RBIs (198) and 13th in batting average (.359).
"I'm very excited to be part of the Orioles organization," Wieters said in a conference call. "I really went into the draft with no predetermined [idea] of where I might go and what I might do ... From the time I was picked, I was very excited."
The Orioles didn't have a second or third-round pick and concentrated virtually all of their scouting resources on their top pick. Baltimore also considered left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler and right-hander Philipe Aumont in the days leading up to the draft, but Wieters won out despite the rumors about his perceived bonus demands.
"We didn't know up until probably a couple hours ago," said Jordan, who estimated that he's seen Wieters play live 25-30 times during high school and college combined. "There was more uncertainty this year than in years past. We got a good feeling about 11:30 [or] 12:00 that that's where we were headed."
"We're not real worried about that," Wieters said about signing. "We're excited about what might come from here."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
Wieters is represented by prominent agent Scott Boras, whom Baltimore has avoided dealing with in recent years. Boras is reportedly seeking a Major League deal for his client, and Jordan indicated that could work in the team's favor. Mike Flanagan, Baltimore's executive vice president of baseball operations, said the tumult could be overblown.
"We'll see once we get into it," he said. "The idea is to get the player and get him signed. These things tend to take time. We'll have that August 15 deadline, so it may be a little speedier than maybe it's been in the past."
"It took this long for somebody to bring up his name," Jordan said late in his press briefing. "Obviously, we got past that. We've had a lot of discussion. I've spoken with the Boras corporation, and obviously Jim and Mike have as well. ... We feel like at the end of the day, this guy's out playing and he's going to be part of the history here."
Boras, who spoke to the media via conference call, compared Wieters to Varitek and Texas slugger Mark Teixeira.
"I've been doing the draft for 32 years," Boras said before speaking about his client's abilities. "I really haven't seen a college catcher of this skill level. And I've represented some good ones."
Wieters, listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, is hardly an ideal size for a catcher, but Jordan and Flanagan both stressed his defensive skill as the main reason he was an attractive candidate. From Jordan's perspective, any concerns about the backstop's size dissolve the moment you watch him handle a pitching staff.
"It's not prototypical, but there are some and there have been some," he said. "This guy's done it for three years in college without any problems. ...He's not a vocal throwback type ... but this guy is a leader."
Baltimore has chosen position players for three straight seasons at the top of the draft. Last year, the Orioles selected power-hitting prep third baseman Billy Rowell, who's currently playing at Class A Delmarva. Brandon Snyder, a prep catcher, was the pick one year before that, and Jordan said there's room for both in the organization.
"Both bats will play," Jordan said. "Obviously, from an organizational standpoint, we'll have to look at it as it relates to Brandon, but Brandon's bat is going to be fine and his bat is going to hit in a Major League lineup."
Other Orioles Day 1 selections:
RHP Timothy Bascom, University of Central Florida, fourth round, 129th overall
Bascom was drafted in the sixth round last year by San Diego but never played professionally. In his junior season, he went 5-6 with a 2.47 ERA and struck out more than a batter per inning.
RHP Jake Arrieta, Texas Christian University, fifth round, 159th overall
A second-team All-American last season, Arrieta went 9-3 with a 3.01 ERA as a junior. Arrieta was drafted twice before -- out of high school and out of junior college -- but never signed.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.