Matt Thaiss spent his three years at the University of Virginia largely playing catcher. However, when the Los Angeles Angels drafted him in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, he was switched to first base, where he played 29 college games at.
From 2016-2020, Thaiss was a first baseman, working his way up the Minor League ranks until he made his MLB debut in 2019. However, after the 2020 season in which he played just six games due to the cancellation of the Minor League season, he return hoping to play catcher again.
And over the last two years, he has worked his way back to being a catcher, and has begun to usurp Kurt Suzuki as the Angels back-up catcher to finish out the 2022 season.
For Thaiss, much of the credit for his success re-learning how to play catcher comes from the Angels lead man at the position, Max Stassi, as well as Suzuki. Thaiss spoke about the help they’ve given him and how it’s led to more opportunities, according to Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“I’m just trying to absorb as much information from those two guys as I can,” Thaiss said. “They know way more than I probably ever will. They’re so good at what they do.”
Stassi had plenty of praise for Thaiss and his willingness to learn despite already having previous experience at the position.
“The work that he’s put in is incredible,” Stassi said. “He cares a lot about the work he does back there. Pitch calling to game planning to receiving … I think that from seeing him in spring training in 2021, when he made the conversion over, to now is incredible. I’m just here as a resource to help him.”
Thaiss’ emergence as a legitimate catcher option may change the Angels plans moving forward. At this rate, it was unlikely that Suzuki was going to return for another season with the Angels, given that he is soon-to-be 39 years old and already contemplated retirement twice.
So now, the Angels can look at their farm system and argue that they have real depth at catcher. They have Stassi, who is under contract for two more seasons, as their most likely starter. Then, they have Thaiss, recently-acquired Logan O’Hoppe, and the steadily rising Edgar Quero.
O’Hoppe is arguably going to be ready for the Majors as early as the start of 2023. If he is — and shows it in Spring Training — could the Angels seek a deal for Thaiss or Stassi to move O’Hoppe up on the depth chart? Or could he start 2023 in Triple-A and have Stassi and Thaiss be the big league options?
Quero is also an intriguing option, although it may be a little while longer before he’s ready to move to the big leagues. He is currently Class-A, but it feels inevitable that he starts 2023 on the Double-A roster at least. If he continues posting OPS numbers above .950, his rise to the top could be quick.
For Thaiss, it’s going to be about keeping the work going and continuing to learn from Stassi and Suzuki while he has the opportunity to do so. If he can develop even further, there is no reason he can’t be the Opening Day backup next April.
Angels continuing to give chances to Ryan Aguilar
While is was considered a surprise decision to call up Ryan Aguilar, an outfielder who has never taken a pitch at the Triple-A level, the Angels appear determined to give him September opportunities.
Aguilar started on both Friday and Saturday, leaving Jo Adell on the bench in both cases. Phil Nevin explained the decision, saying that he felt it was unfair to make Aguilar go so long without playing at any level.