Prospect: Matt Thaiss
Position(s): First Baseman
Level: AA Mobile
Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2018.
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 200 lbs
*20-80 scale. 20 is not existent, Major League average is 50. Good Major League is 60. Great Major League is 70. The best I’ve ever seen is 80. These aren’t given very often.
Floor: Below average starting 1B in the major leagues.
Ceiling: Borderline all-star caliber starting 1B in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Starting 1B in the major leagues.
Summary: Matt Thaiss is a very polarizing prospect. Anyone that watches him is certain that he’s going to be a major leaguer. Everyone that watches him comes with their own preconceived expectations as to what a starting first baseman should be and what he is. Some will insist that he just doesn’t have enough power to play first base and is too small for the position as is. Others believe that power is almost certainly coming and that Thaiss is a great hitter with good athleticism and will end up being a good starting first baseman.
Personally, I think the further we get away from what a hitter has done in the past at a certain position and using that as a benchmark for future players, the better. Forget for a minute that Matt Thiass is a first baseman and just look at him as a hitter. What do you see? A good hitter that can eventually be a very good hitter.
Now why does it matter if that value comes as a first baseman or right fielder? It shouldn’t. The Angels certainly don’t believe it does.
So let’s unpack Matt Thaiss as a player. He’s an ok hitter right now. Not great, he has trouble catching up with some pitches and keeping his timing consistent from pitcher to pitcher, but he’s alright. Thaiss makes hard contact though. His one-hoppers off the fence in the gap sure look like a strong kid that’s almost ready for the major leagues. Thaiss as “plus” plate discipline and is great at forcing pitchers to make pitches he can hit. He can even move a little bit and has dedicated himself to eating right and building muscle. At first base, he’s improved a lot since being drafted. He isn’t a gold glover out there right now but he’s ok.
Now let’s unpack where Matt Thaiss might be in three years. Sure he’s an ok hitter right now, but he’s only been a professional for one full year, that’s it. He’s probably going to be a very good hitter. And yeah, he makes solid contact right now. Some leave the yard, most don’t, but he’s only 22. He’ll be stronger, better at 25 than at 22. So the power should be just fine. That great plate discipline he has? That’s not going anywhere, he may even get better! And defensively, he never played first base until he was drafted. The more reps he gets, the better he’ll be. Sure, he’s short for a first baseman, but unless we have Yunel Escobar at 3B again, we don’t need a 6’5” first baseman. 6’0” should be fine.
The important thing to take away here is that Thaiss isn’t a finished product. He’s making adjustments. He’s narrowed his stance, shortened his swing, learned to punish the ball where it’s pitched and has adjusted to much higher level pitching and playing a new position. This all happened in one year.
He’s going to be fine, and Angels fans will quickly fall in love with the idea of having an inexpensive young first baseman that gets on base better than 37% of the time batting in front of Trout/Upton/Cozart/Calhoun/Pujols.
What to expect: When you have a player like Thaiss who’s strong compact swing is generated toward barreling line drives and doesn’t chase pitches too frequently, you don’t anticipate there being much of a learning curve. But there are still a lot of subtle nuances that these players need to make, even if their surface numbers are sold. Thaiss did a fantastic job in AA to end last year and I expect he’ll return to AA to start this year. Personally, I expect this is going to light AA on fire and get promoted to AAA almost immediately and will be so successful there that the Angels start toying with the concept of starting him at 1B in July or August. But that’s expecting a lot. The casual fan should feel comfortable with Thaiss spending the majority of this next season in AA, and that would be fine too.
Estimated time of arrival: Late 2018, Thaiss’ age 23 season.
Grade as a prospect: B
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar. Grade B player is a future regular. Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.