Around the Horn: Catchers

Wieters healthy to start year, Joseph returns as backup

Around the Horn: Catchers

With the start of Spring Training three weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2016 season. MLB.com is going around the horn to break down each area of the Orioles, continuing today with catcher.

While there should be plenty of position battles to watch in Spring Training, the Orioles shouldn't have much intrigue at catcher.

With Matt Wieters accepting a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer and Caleb Joseph returning in a backup role, Baltimore has a strong catching duo. The biggest question, health permitting, is how manager Buck Showalter will split up the playing time.

Wieters, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season and didn't return until June, played in just 75 games last year, and only 55 of those were behind the plate. He also saw time at designated hitter and played first base, starting as an infielder for just the second time in his Major League career.

While the All-Star is healthy and will enjoy a regular offseason, Wieters could see some time at DH to keep his legs fresh and to give manager Buck Showalter an opportunity to work in Joseph.

Joseph, who assumed the starting role in Wieters' absence, has made significant strides defensively and has impressed the organization since the day he was promoted in 2014. Like Wieters, Joseph is 29, and he's also earned the respect of the pitching staff -- a key to success in the big leagues.

Joseph played in a career-high 100 games last year, up from 82 in 2014, and served as the DH in just four. Wieters is a switch-hitter with more power and figures to project as a better DH, but the offseason acquisition of Mark Trumbo could pencil him into the everyday DH role. Trumbo is also an option in right field, and Showalter has said in the past he'd prefer to not clog up the DH spot with just one guy.

If Showalter is able to rotate the DH around, Showalter can play matchups and line up Joseph and Wieters as batterymates for certain parts of the staff. Given how well Joseph has done behind the plate, it would be hard to envision him being relegated to playing just once a week as a backup, giving Showalter the luxury of being able to rotate between two catchers.

Baltimore also has some promising catchers in its Minor League system, with both Chance Sisco and Jonah Heim ranked among MLB.com's Top 15 Orioles prospects.

Sisco, ranked No. 8, was Baltimore's second pick -- after Hunter Harvey -- in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. He played for Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie last season and combined for a .297 batting average with six homers and 34 RBIs in 95 games. A left-handed hitter, he projects to potentially arrive in Baltimore in 2017.

Heim, ranked No. 15, is about a year behind Sisco, though he's been lauded for his defensive skills. The switch-hitter, whose offensive skills still need some developing, spent last year in the Gulf Coast League and Class A Delmarva. Like Sisco, Heim is just 20 years old. He was drafted in the fourth round in '13.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.