Max Stassi’s emergence to being an every day catcher was one of the main story lines for the Los Angeles Angels during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. However, as Joe Maddon put his faith in Stassi to begin 2021, there was some concern that his numbers were simply a fluke and a victim of circumstance.
Stassi quickly put those fears to bed, putting up incredible offensive numbers while continuing to be an elite pitch framer. In his first 52 games of 2021, he had a .307 batting average with a .919 OPS, hitting 10 home runs.
He then entered an extended slump. Over the next 30 games, he batted a measly .144 with a .472 OPS. But again, Maddon did not lose faith in Stassi, and his last three games have shown why. He’s 3-for-10 with two home runs, five RBIs, two walks, and only one strikeout.
Maddon explained exactly why he never lost his confidence in Stassi and what he did to get back to this point, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“He’s back to where he had begun, the ball is really coming out hot,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “His hands are back. It’s an effortless swing. That’s what he looked like early. He got off to a great start, lost it for a bit and now he’s recapturing it.”
“It’s awesome,” Naughton said. “What a great teammate, what a great leader. Suzuki, too. Here I am as a 25-year-old rookie, and I get these two guys to catch me. You really can’t draw it up better than that.”
Stassi has one final year of arbitration before entering free agency ahead of the 2023 season. It’s unclear exactly what the future plans are for the Angels at the catcher position, but it would not be surprising to see them ride with Stassi in 2022.
Once the team is at full health, Stassi will be batting towards the bottom of the order — likely in the 6-8 range — and they could do far worse than a player of his caliber batting in those spots.
Naughton falters in short start
Against the lowly Rangers, Naughton only managed to put together two innings of work. After a shaky — but scoreless — first inning, he was unable to hold the Rangers off any longer.
He allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in the second inning, giving Texas a 4-2 lead that they would not surrender for the rest of the night.