Matt Thaiss is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Angels' No. 5 prospect and the No. 10 first-base prospect in baseball.Los Angeles selected the 22-year-old with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He was the second New Jersey native drafted in the
Matt Thaiss is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Angels' No. 5 prospect and the No. 10 first-base prospect in baseball.
Los Angeles selected the 22-year-old with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He was the second New Jersey native drafted in the first round by the Angels, after Michael Trout in 2009.
:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::
Thaiss has produced well throughout his two Minor League seasons to this point, and while the power potential scouts saw in his bat hasn't shown up consistently yet, it is expected it will as he continues through the farm system.
A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, the 6-foot, 195-pound Thaiss has moved quickly through the Angels' organizational ranks so far. He split the 2017 season between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile while hitting .274/.375/.395 with nine home runs in 133 games. He'll likely begin the 2018 season at Double-A.
Thaiss was considered one of the purest hitters of the 2016 Draft class as a catcher for Virginia. He's shown patience and good pitch selection, walking 103 times and striking out 141 times in 903 professional plate appearances. He doesn't possess elite speed on the basepaths, but enough of it to be an extra-base threat -- he had 27 doubles and four triples in 2017.
Defensively, the Angels are seeing significant improvements from Thaiss at first base, particularly with his footwork. Part of the rationale behind moving him from behind the plate was to help him focus on the primary asset for which he was drafted: his hitting. Former Angels first baseman Wally Joyner worked with Thaiss during Spring Training last year as he learned the new position.
"I've gone from really not playing there at all, maybe 25 games total in my career, to feeling very confident over there," Thaiss told MLB.com's Jim Callis last spring. "The big thing is getting ground balls and game experience. I think it's going really well. First base is definitely less demanding. I don't get beat up like I did behind the plate."
With his rapid ascension through the farm system to this point, and his advanced hitting approach among those in his Draft class, Thaiss could rise to the big league level by the 2019 season.
When Thaiss is called up, the Angels could have a crowded situation for first basemen and designated hitters, given that C.J. Cron is under team control through 2020, and Jose Pujols' contract runs through the 2021 season.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.