On Tuesday we learned that Wyatt Mathisen would be making the move from behind the plate to third base in West Virginia during the 2014 season. That move is largely due to the presence of top catching prospect Reese McGuire. The Pirates drafted McGuire in the first round this past season, and he will see the bulk of the defensive work behind the plate.
The Pirates wanted to get Mathisen everyday at-bats. They also didn’t think his defense behind the plate would come along if he was only catching two days per week. So they moved him to third base, which is a more natural position for him.
“Obviously he was a shortstop in high school, so it made all the sense in the world to get him over there, get him back where he’s comfortable, and just let him play,” Pirates’ farm director Larry Broadway said.
Mathisen played mostly shortstop in high school, but the Pirates liked him as a catcher. When he was drafted, they didn’t have McGuire in the system. It also didn’t help that Mathisen missed most of the 2013 season with a small labrum tear, which kept him back in West Virginia for the 2014 season. The decision really came down to the fact that Mathisen didn’t have much experience behind the plate, and wasn’t projected to get any better with limited opportunities due to McGuire’s presence.
“Catching is such a hard position if you’re trying to develop a high school kid that has never done it, and then you’re trying to do it two days a week,” Broadway said. “It’s not a real good probability that’s going to turn out the way you want it to.”
Mathisen has been taking ground balls at third base for the last three days. The move might also help him focus more on his hitting, since he doesn’t have to spend a lot of time focusing on his defense behind the plate.
“Hopefully it will take a load off his mind, and will be easier on his body,” Broadway said. “Just kind of free him up to be athletic and have fun in the box.”
The move for Mathisen meant that the Pirates had to focus on finding playing time for another player, Erich Weiss. The Pirates drafted Weiss last year as a junior out of Texas. He was an 11th round pick, but received a $305,000 bonus. That was over-slot, and led to a small tax that the Pirates had to pay for going over their total draft pool spending. Weiss was a third baseman in his final two seasons in college, but played second base and shortstop in high school and his freshman year at Texas.
“We talked to him about it,” Broadway said. “He said he loves second base, so we went ahead and made that decision as well.”
The Pirates liked Weiss for his hitting, even though he struggled in his junior year in Texas. The plan was to play him at third base, but Mathisen’s move changed those plans.
“We didn’t want Wyatt to just platoon around the infield,” Broadway said. “Figured move [Weiss] in the middle of the diamond, keep him athletic there, keep him moving around, and get him comfortable everyday at-bats over there.”
The bat for Weiss should play better at second base, although there is the chance that he could move back to third base in the long-term if he moves to a level where there is a third base opening. For now, Mathisen immediately becomes the top third base prospect in the system, and everyday at-bats for Weiss will give him the opportunity to work on his hitting, and possibly show what the Pirates liked about his bat.