The Angels have made a number of acquisitions this offseason. GM Perry Minasian and his staff addressed virtually every area of the roster in some capacity. Hunter Renfroe came in via trade to bolster the outfield. Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury were brought aboard as infield help. Tyler Anderson signed a three-year deal for the rotation. Carlos Estévez and Matt Moore step into the bullpen mix.
The primary exception is behind the plate. While the Halos were tied to top free agent backstop Willson Contreras at the start of the winter, they ultimately head into Spring Training with a trio of catchers who were on the roster to finish last season. That’s not especially surprising — catcher never looked like the biggest area of concern for the group — but it represents one of the areas that’s least solidified at the moment.
Manager Phil Nevin told reporters this week he views the catching situation as an open competition going into camp (via Sam Blum of the Athletic). With that in mind, it’s worth examining the options at his disposal.
Acquired from the Phillies last summer in a surprising deadline deal that sent center fielder Brandon Marsh to Philadelphia, O’Hoppe is one of the sport’s top catching prospects. He’s been a minor leaguer of some regard for a few years running but took things to a new level last season. O’Hoppe spent the vast majority of 2022 with the Double-A affiliates for the respective clubs. He combined for a .283/.416/.544 line with 26 home runs, a massive 15.7% walk percentage and a modest 16.6% strikeout rate during his age-22 campaign.
At the very end of last season, the Halos rewarded O’Hoppe with his first MLB call. He appeared in only five games, far too small a sample upon which to draw any conclusions. The move was more about giving him an opportunity to get acclimated to an MLB atmosphere than in providing useable data for the front office to determine his readiness for 2023.
O’Hoppe is widely praised by prospect evaluators. Baseball America considers him the top young talent in the organization, placing him 42nd among prospects overall. The Athletic and ESPN each slot him towards the back half of their respective top 100 lists. All three outlets credit him for a well-rounded game with solid expected contributions on both sides of the ball.
He’s clearly far too advanced for Double-A. He has zero Triple-A experience and only a cup of coffee in the majors, though, so there’s certainly risk in turning over the primary job on a club that hopes to compete for a playoff spot right out of the gate. O’Hoppe is the organization’s hopeful catcher of the future. They’ll need to determine whether he’s ready to take that mantle immediately. He still has a full slate of minor league option years remaining.
Stassi is much more of a known quantity. 32 next month, he’s played in parts of 10 big league campaigns. Stassi only started garnering legitimate playing time in 2018, his sixth year logging some MLB action. Between 2018-21, he looked like one of the sport’s more underrated catchers. Over that stretch, Stassi hit .222/.306/.382. That’s roughly average output for a catcher, though the cumulative slash is weighed down by an atrocious 2019 season. He was an above-average hitting catcher in the other three years, including a .241/.326/.426 showing for the Halos in 2021.
The veteran paired that solid offense with consistently excellent marks from public defensive metrics. He wasn’t especially adept at controlling the running game but garnered glowing reviews from pitch framing evaluations. The Halos signed him to a $14.5MM extension covering the 2023-24 seasons (with a ’25 club option) last spring. It seemed a firm commitment he’d be their primary catcher for the next few years, though that predated an underwhelming 2022 showing.
Stassi hit just .180/.267/.303 with nine homers in a career-high 375 plate appearances last year. His formerly excellent defensive grades slipped to almost exactly league average. His bat-to-ball skills and hard contact percentage each took steps back. It obviously wasn’t the kind of season he or the club had envisioned, meaning he’ll need a rebound showing if he’s to secure regular reps again. Stassi can’t be optioned to the minors, so he’ll be on the big league roster in some capacity. Whether that’s as the starter or reserve is up in the air.
Thaiss was a catcher at the University of Virginia. A bat-first player, he was selected in the first round in 2016 and immediately moved to first base. Scouts questioned whether he’d have the receiving skills to stick behind the plate. The Angels didn’t give him the chance to work on his defense, instead hoping his bat would launch him quickly through the minor leagues.
The lefty-hitting Thaiss proved a fine but not exceptional minor league hitter. He paired quality plate discipline with above-average contact skills but never made the kind of power impact one would expect from a first baseman. In 2021, the Angels started giving him reps back behind the plate with Triple-A Salt Lake. He’s played 99 games there the past two years and started 11 MLB contests at catcher last season.
Thaiss owns just a .205/.299/.373 line over 278 MLB plate appearances, striking out at an uncharacteristic 30.6% clip. He only fanned in 18.4% of his trips with a robust 13% walk rate for the Bees last season, hitting .268/.364/.451 over 77 Triple-A games. He’s an interesting depth player but comes with questions about both his offensive impact and receiving ability behind the plate. Thaiss has exhausted his option years; the Halos have to keep him in the majors or make him available to other teams via waivers or trade.
Anaheim will also get looks at Chad Wallach, José Godoy and minor leaguer Anthony Mulrine in camp this spring as non-roster players. Mulrine has never hit in the minors and looks to be an organizational depth piece. Wallach and Godoy have played in the big leagues but typically function as third/fourth options on a depth chart.
The initial playing time will almost certainly be divided among some combination of O’Hoppe, Stassi and Thaiss. Carrying O’Hoppe in a reserve capacity feels unlikely. He should play regularly, either in the majors or at Salt Lake. Whether the Halos deem him ready out of the gate — and if they do, whether they feel there’s room to keep both Stassi and Thaiss on the bench — are key questions for the front office and coaching staff over the next month and a half.
Let. O’Hoppe. Cook.
Agreed! My obvious guess is that they split the time with Stassi, but can’t wait to see what he can do.
O’Hoppe will be under the spotlight for sure as the Angels expect(?) to compete…
And still waiting on a healthy Moniak.
For sure DarkSide, I think the O’Hoppe trade was a pretty savy move by Perry. I believe his ceiling at Catcher, is higher than Marsh’s in CF/OF. Also catching was more of a positional need at this time.
Honestly, as this team is currently constructed, Marsh would be the 4th OF. He’s just meh, but I would take him over Phillips as a 4th.
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
I thought O’Hoppe is where you got waffles?
Catching is very similar to QB in the NFL. There’s a learning curve and rarely do you see a young QB/Catcher immediately get handed the keys to the kingdom.
I see Stassi as the master and O’Hoppe as the apprentice. That’s why Suzuki was there last year as well. You can always use a veteran catcher. Obviously the position is O’Hoppes in the near future, it just depends on how fast he can adapt and learn.
Wouldn’t be shocked if they added Gary Sanchez
I thought they were looking for a catcher?
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
First thing that will catch is a cold, second will be Sanchez. At least a cold will go away, sign Sanchez & he’ll be there the rest of the year.
I think all Angels fans are excited to see what O’Hoppe can do. Cheers to Stassi if he can find his bat again.
Two rules of thought. Let O’Hoppe play, maybe he can get ROY votes and get the Angels a draft pick.
Two problems with that. The Angels risk losing O’Hoppe one year earlier and the risk losing Matt Thaiss now.
I’d like to see Thaiss break with the team and then Decide in April if O’Hoppe is ready.
This one belongs to the Reds
O’Skipp can be the backup.
That’s not a bad idea at all. O’Hoppe just might vary well be a May call up to delay his service time. But if he Mashed in Spring and shows he ready, I’d say roll with him, and bye,bye Thaiss.
Exactly, there’s no point in rushing O’Hoppe to the big leagues—it seldom works out. I also want Thaiss to get a crack… Taylor Ward finally received a shot last year and he showed us what he can do.
I wonder if Stassi’s drop is related to his concussion in 2021. That wasn’t his first one.
O’Hoppe will get some playing time this year. I think ideally we see a pretty even split.
JJ, if you are old enough to remember the looney tunes reference. I’m pretty sure Stassi still has some “bats in the belfry”…
I used to watch Looney Tunes with my Grandpa. He loved the Coyote/Roadrunner ones.
Thanks to YouTube I now watch them with my son. He laughs and laughs right along with me.
I’ll admit i forget which character used that term…Daffy Duck?
Quero not far behind….
Quero is only 19. He had a great season, but it was A-ball. He will play against stiffer competition and needs to repeat this offense to be considered for real. He also needs to improve his defense dramatically to catch at the big league level, which means he needs to apprentice for at least two more seasons– that will make him only 22.
For sure Carl, he’s at least 3 years away. Let’s just hope he keeps progressing thru the system. Couple that with O’Hoppe breaking out, Q just might be trade bait.
About the time he gets good at defense the automated strike zone will be here ha ha.
Quero was the highest ranked Angel in ESPN top 100 prospects ranking. A switch hitting catcher with power. He won the MVP in the California League last year. Let’s see how he does in double A this year. If he continues to mash, Angels seem set at the catcher position for a while with O Hoppe and Quero.
I’d prefer to see the Angels sign Sanchez and trade Stassi. O’Hoppe and Sanchez. If Sanchez hits 20 homers it could mean winning an extra two or three games– and that could be the difference in this tight division. His defense is vastly improved over the last couple of seasons.
This isn’t MLB The Show. You can’t magically force trade somebody who no longer has value. Whoever that would trade for Stassi can just sign Sanchez instead.
Reynaldo – Mt guess is someone wants him and that they need a replacement. Stassi has a much better chance of being productive. Stassi had two MAJOR head tramas last year. He dove into a pole head first and got a bat to the back/side of the head and not just a glancing blow. He should have been out much longer than he was IMO. I think he should recover but I’m not sure he will be 100% in 23, but coming into 22 he was one of the better catchers.
carllafong – I think Stassi has a much better shot at being more productive than Sanchez. Stassi had had those two major tramas to the head, Stassi will probably bounce back next year but I think might not be 100% yet. Even with the drop off in all areas Stassi was still probably better than Sanchez. I think Stassi has a better chance of hitting more home runs and certainly better offensive numbers based on track records. Sanchez has a higher ceiling power wise. Another thing to remember is the pitchers are used to Stassi and Ohtani likes to work with stassi.
Tim Exactly. Stassi is Ohtani’s personal catcher. They work well together. I don’t see the Angels upsetting Ohtani right now. They worked together the off season before Ohtani broke out a couple of years ago. I don’t see Stassi going anywhere.
Godoy and Mulrine are worthless. Can’t count them. Filler.
I think it is O’Hoppes time to shine.He has a clear path as a starter for many years to come. We have had a hole at catcher for awhile. Time to fill it and let the kid play. Stassi can back him up and will help keep him healthy not playing as much
This one belongs to the Reds
With that crew, I’m thinking of giving them a call lol.
Don’t quit your day job, the Angels catching position might just be in good hands for many years to come.
This one belongs to the Reds
I was thinking the backup job.
I’d prefer O’Hoppe to start in the minors and get some more AB’s unless he absolutely takes this spring and forces our hand
Is this really a competition? O’Hoppe and Stassi should be givens to be the tandem. Thais would be an interesting option as a third Catcher 1B/3B bench type but thanks to the additions of Drury and Urshela would be redundant. The rest are AAAA/minor league fodder
These decisions are why Angels haven’t been too team in AL. With Trout and Ohtani, this club should be playing in ALCS yearly , yet here we are. Finding the right mix of bit players is all that keeps them from being a dynasty
This one belongs to the Reds
Yeah, they are putting all their eggs in the prospect basket. Prospect is another word for “ain’t done nothin’ yet.”
“GM Perry Minasian and his staff addressed virtually every area of the roster in some capacity.”
Except their two glaring holes: SS and closer.
Signing an expensive long term SS option wastes the potential Soto and Neto. Rosario is a name brought up often for a trade, but I don’t think the Guardians will part with him if they are in the race. I wouldn’t call it a glaring hole, but one some eager young players are going to compete for.
As for a closer, I would love to see Nevin give the job to Herget. He isnt the 103mph heater type, but he keeps his WHIP down and has great momentum coming from last year.
No winning team holds a job for a suspect when they can have a proven performer now.
Soto is mediocre at best. A .741 OPS in a league where average was .752 is not an encouraging sign. The previous year he hit .218 with a .641 OPS. The guy was rated a 45 prospect for a reason. He is below average.
Neto is maybe an option in the 2nd half…of 2024. He grades out as a 50, which is MLB average. He had a promising few months in AA, but don’t count on him to be the next coming of Carlos Correa. He doesn’t have the skills. .
What about Urshela? He can play short as I recall.
O’Hoppe is gonna win ROY thanks to his big strong D.
I can’t help but feel Dumbrowski pulled one over on Minasian. O”Hoppe will be a disappointment and Stwssi will continue to suck and drag the team down despite the narrative that he’s”good with the pitchers”.
No way Skip! Love the trade for the Angels. I believe O’Hoppe’s ceiling at C, is higher than Marsh’s in the OF/CF. We’ll see how it turns out, but I like the deal.
PNP i agree. Marsh was heading down and needed to be dumped. Angels definitely were in need of a catcher with Stassi performing poorly and Suzuki headed to retirement.
For the love of everything holy, stop bleating about “not signing a SS”. Look at the contract values each of the leading SS pulled down, and consider the impact that has on a team looking to fill in the edges of its roster with key players. One year of Bogaerts, Swanson or Correa is the same as 2-3 other bullpen or utility players.
The Angels season failed in 2022 not because of a lack of a SS, but lack of depth. The latter is what is needed and that is where Minasian has devoted his focus.
Last season our SS hit .224 with a .602 OPS and 73 OPS+. We cannot compete for a spot in the postseason with that level of production at SS.
Playing Rengifo there will increase offensive production at the cost of defense. A wash.
Well that problem is solved by not having Squid start 80+, Fletcher fully rehabbed after abductor surgery & Rengifo.
The Angels issues at SS are not solved at all.
Fletcher can’t hit water by falling out of a boat, Rengifo has a lead glove, and not sure who the player you are calling Squid is.
We need a real SS. Not a utility guy that can kind of play the position.
Stassi has taken one too many off the mask. Multiple concussions have left him pretty useless as a hitter and a catcher. Hopefully O’Hoppe is as good as he looked in the minors last season and Stassi only has to make 50 starts or so.
I feel like this article was a great read. Smooth informative and to the point. I’m not a Halos fan but I’m a baseball romantic who enjoys watching (in this case reading) about potential and seeing who can rise to the occasion. Nicely done Mr Franco
Downing was safe!
Spring training will make the decision for the front office.
Phillies fan here mad you got hoppe and moniak —
I like marsh but not enough
Dombrouski is famous for jacking up his teams payroll and trading away the best players in his farm system to try and win NOW! Two years from now the Phillies will have the second highest payroll in the National league and no future prospects to rebuild with.
Spring training numbers R worthless!
oh my gawd
We shouldn’t complain about free things. However, there’s a link to O’Hoppe’s baseball reference, which shows six games of AAA experience in 2021. Do the editors and writers not fact check their pieces? I know speed is the goal, but why not have a 24-hour look back to read the comments and update inaccuracies?