How the Angels quietly developed some organizational depth in the receiver

ANAHEIM, Calif. — After the Angels beat the Yankees on Monday night, Matt Thaiss came up and apologized to Max Stassi.

He’d spent every moment in the dugout asking Stassi questions, about everything from catching mechanics to the opposing team’s scouting report to questions about Angels pitchers.

Thaiss taken in college. But when he returned to the position from before last season, it was fundamentally foreign to him. It was therefore essential to take into account all the knowledge of Stassi and veteran backstop Kurt Suzuki.

“I’m just trying to absorb as much information as possible from these two guys,” Thaiss said. “They know a lot more than I will probably ever know. They are so good at what they do.

The Angels are determined to give Thaiss a chance to make up for this final month of the season. In the meantime, that means fewer at-bats for the crumbling Stassi, which he says he doesn’t mind. That means even fewer opportunities for Suzuki.

But all of this leads to an intriguing question as the Angels approach their offseason: what’s the future of their catching position?

Stassi owes $14 million over the next two seasons, which includes a $7.5 million club option or a $500,000 buyout. All that to say that he will be in the team. The Angels are also unlikely to re-sign soon-to-be 39-year-old Suzuki, who is hitting .179 and not known for his defensive prowess.

If Max Stassi can get back to his 2021 offensive output, when he had .752 OPS in 87 games, that would help establish long-term stability at the position. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

Who joins Stassi, however, is up for debate. While the Angels’ minor league catching depth has been a longstanding issue, it now appears to be a strength. The Angels’ top prospect, Logan O’Hoppe, came to the organization as part of the deadline trade for Brandon Marsh. He hit eight homers in 18 games with Double-A Rocket City. There’s also Class A prospect Edgar Quero, who has a .975 OPS with 34 doubles and 16 homers this season.

Then there’s the wild card: Thaiss, a former first-round pick with decent offensive ability who has recently shown signs of catching ability.

“The job he’s done is amazing,” Stassi said. “He cares a lot about the work he does there. Calling the game planning at the front desk… I think to see him in spring training in 2021, when he made the conversion, to now is amazing. I’m just here as a resource to help her.

Angels have several options. They could start the season with Stassi and Thaiss, with O’Hoppe waiting backstage. They could invite O’Hoppe to major league camp and give him the chance to get a job after spring training.

Whichever route they take, Thaiss’ appearance as a starting catcher in major league games is significant. He provides a sense of stability to the position that could, at least, bridge the gap between the present and a future with O’Hoppe.

“I’m really impressed with the way he’s going about it,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said of Thaiss. “And I want to see more looks on him.”

Nothing is certain in baseball. Look at the Angels’ roster this season. The team has gone through more missed third basemen this year than many teams in a decade.

But the Angels seem to have a plan at receiver and a path for it to be a successful position for years to come. The Angels’ biggest criticism is their lack of organizational depth, but they may well have some depth at the receiver end.

Stassi’s bat — he’s mired in a 2-for-46 slump and is hitting .189 on the season — is seemingly the biggest impediment to short-term success at this position. This team can’t afford to get as low offensive productivity from the catchers next season as they did this season.

But if Stassi can regain his offensive output from 2021 (.752 OPS in 87 games), there is potential for Thaiss, O’Hoppe and, one day, Quero to become a stable group for a long time at a position where it is difficult. to find talent and stability.

O’Hoppe brushed off a question about his journey to the major leagues. He just said it was all out of his control and he couldn’t focus on it.

But the Angels didn’t trade Marsh for nothing. They traded for what they saw as the future of the position. That’s probably why Stassi, when put in a group chat with O’Hoppe by a former Phillies catching coordinator, offered some advice.

“I told him if he had any questions, (let me know),” Stassi said. “I can’t wait to meet him at spring training. Do not hesitate to contact us. I just want to win games.

(Photo by Thaiss: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today)

Aubrey L. Morgan