Angels first baseman Jared Walsh and catcher Max Stassi will begin the 2023 season on the injured list, tweets Sam Blum of The Athletic. Walsh is currently being plagued by headaches and insomnia, while Stassi is dealing with a hip injury. With that pair of IL stints, the Halos will carry top catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe and veteran corner infielder Jake Lamb on the Opening Day roster. Lamb, who’s in camp on a non-roster deal, will need to have his contract selected.
Walsh’s trip to the injured list is an unfortunate development for the Halos, given the resurgent showing he turned in this spring after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery in 2022. The 29-year-old Walsh’s 2021 breakout sent him to the All-Star Game, and he finished out that season with a hearty .277/.340/.509 batting line and 29 homers. He hit just .215/.269/.374 in 2022 before landing on the injured list and undergoing surgery, but through 14 spring games in 2023 Walsh looked like his old self: .400/.512/.686 with a pair of homers and four doubles in 43 plate appearances. He’ll meet with a specialist to determine the root of his current issues.
With Walsh out, the veteran Lamb could step into the large half of a first base platoon. He’s had a monster spring, batting .324/.419/.595 with a pair of homers, four doubles and a 9-to-5 K/BB ratio in 43 plate appearances. Lamb hit 59 home runs as the D-backs’ regular third baseman back in 2016-17 but has since had his career derailed by shoulder injuries. He’s batted just .198/.310/.394 in 606 plate appearances since 2018 shoulder surgery. That said, Lamb is a .251/.339/.455 hitter against right-handed pitching.
There’s no timetable provided for Stassi’s return, but his trip to the IL paves the way for O’Hoppe, one of the sport’s top catching prospects, to open the season as the Angels’ primary starter. It also at least temporarily resolves the Angels’ dilemma with regard to catcher/first baseman Matt Thaiss, who’s out of minor league options. Thaiss will now slot in as the backup to O’Hoppe early on, and his experience at first base will also be a factor with Walsh sidelined.
O’Hoppe, 23, made his big league debut with the Angels late in the 2022 season but received just 16 plate appearances in five games. Acquired from the Phillies in the deadline deal that sent center fielder Brandon Marsh the other way, O’Hoppe posted a combined .283/.416/.544 batting line in 447 plate appearances between the Double-A affiliates for his two organizations.
With this Opening Day assignment, he’ll skip the Triple-A level entirely. He’s looked ready for the challenge in Cactus League play, batting .281/.361/.438 with a homer and a pair of doubles. O’Hoppe’s 13 strikeouts in 36 plate appearances are a red flag, but he’ll get the chance to prove he’s ready to step up as the organization’s long-term option behind the plate right now. Baseball America currently ranks O’Hoppe as the game’s No. 42 overall prospect.
Turning to the rest of the Halos’ roster, there’s further clarity being gained. While the Halos are still deciding who’ll round out the final spot in their six-man rotation, they’ve decided on carrying righty Andrew Wantz in the bullpen and, perhaps more interestingly, will run with offseason trade acquisition Gio Urshela as their Opening Day shortstop.
It’s long been expected that Urshela would see some time at shortstop in Anaheim, and he’ll get the nod over Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher. It bears mentioning that the Angels will face a lefty starter (Kyle Muller) on Opening Day, so getting Urshela’s right-handed bat into the lineup is particularly sensible. Whether he holds the shortstop job on an everyday basis will be seen, but he’s made a strong case for as much playing time as possible this spring, batting .382/.417/.471 with a double, a triple and just two strikeouts in 36 trips to the plate.