A trade deadline deal last season provided an opportunity for two players two have fresh starts, Brandon Marsh with the Philadelphia Phillies and Logan O’Hoppe with the Los Angeles Angels. General manager Perry Minasian wanted a future franchise catcher, and early on in his tenure with the club, the 23-year-old is thriving.
The Angels have been void of a mainstay behind the plate since the early 2000s with Bengie Molina and Mike Napoli, following him was Chris Iannetta, who spent four seasons as the starter from 2012-2015. No catcher has posted a single-season WAR higher than 3.0 when Napoli did so in 2009.
Without a high bar for O’Hoppe to clear to earn the right to be among the best catchers to play for the franchise in the past 20 or so years. In 29 games with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas in 2022, he posted a 1.146 on-base plus slugging with 11 home runs and 33 RBI.
He followed that up with a short, but solid first big-league camp with the Angels, carrying a .754 OPS through 34 at-bats. But what’s most important is his rapport with the pitching staff, something manager Phil Nevin revealed his young backstop has been actively working on, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
Veteran lefty Tyler Anderson was scheduled to pitch in a minor league game on the Angels’ off day, and O’Hoppe “insisted” on coming in to catch Anderson that day, Nevin said.
“Most would want to take an off day,” Nevin said. “He wants to be with the guys. He wants to help them get better. That’s leadership for me, no matter what the age is.”
Of course, his proficiency at the plate is needed in his progression through the organization, but his ability to not only work with the pitching staff but to guide them in difficult spots is what will allow him to stick around. The Angels have a very young core of arms, and O’Hoppe is going beyond what many would ask of a rookie:
O’Hoppe has also learned some Spanish to help him communicate with pitchers who aren’t as comfortable with English.
“It’s all part of helping to adapt to other guys,” O’Hoppe said. “Those guys have it tough, coming over here and not knowing the language. If I can help them out, that can only help them, on and off the field.”
The West Islip, New York native speaks highly of his hometown, and his path to Major League Baseball as a 23rd round pick in the 2018 Draft is a journey less traveled, but he’s showing all the makings of having what it takes to grind it out:
“I enjoy leading the staff and leading the group,” O’Hoppe said. “It’s something I learned at an early age. People back home growing up gave me some structure on that, and it’s something I’ve always worked on.”
O’Hoppe’s big league career is still in the early phase, so expectations are to be tempered, but the heightened level of optimism should be brought into the things to look forward to this season. With a ton of team control left in the bank, Minasian might be onto something here.
Phil Nevin looking forward to seeing Angels team culture grow
The Angels are in an important season and they have high hopes for 2023. Nevin made some additions to his staff, and the results are already showing with both the pitchers and hitters.
Spring Training wins and losses don’t mean anything, but the club still finished with the bet record in the Cactus League. Now, Nevin is looking to see hi team carry that momentum into the season and continue to grow.
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