The LA Angels have been connected to nearly every free agent first baseman this offseason. However, they need not look for anything other than a one-year option, as they have their next great hitter patiently waiting in the wings.
The LA Angels have made it clear they do not believe in C.J Cron as their future first baseman. After being linked to Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, and Lucas Duda, it would not be a surprise for the Halos to trade their young slugger. However, none of the aforementioned players are the Halos’ long term answer at first. That title goes to Matt Thaiss.
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The Halos selected Matt Thaiss in the first round of the 2016 draft. The catcher out of the University of Virginia was seemed as an odd pick. After all, the Angels had just drafted catcher Taylor Ward in the first round of the prior draft. However, with new general manager Billy Eppler conducting his first draft, he took a completely different player than Ward was, despite them playing the same position in college.
While Ward was seen as an elite defensive catcher, Thaiss was drafted because of his elite projections as a hitter. Not much of a backstop, the Angels immediately moved him to first base after drafting him. This allowed the young slugger to focus a majority of his time on refining his already advanced approach at the plate.
The drafting of Thaiss was a human embodiment of Billy Eppler’s philosophy. The general manager values left-handed bats. Check. He is also a believer in on-base percentage being a direct indicator of team success. Thaiss had a career .427 OBP in college. Check. Striking out instead of putting the ball in play is a big problem for players under Eppler. Thaiss struck out fewer times than he walked in his final two collegiate seasons.
All in all, Thaiss was the perfect player for the Halos to bring along under Eppler. Developing him into a star slugger to slot behind Mike Trout as the clean-up hitter is the goal. So far, he has shown the same success as he did in college, albeit at a lesser rate.
In his minor league career, he has been able to keep his strikeout-to-walk ratio at an exceptional level. He owns a 1.35 KK/B over two seasons. He has also continued to show the power that made him such a high draft pick. While he has (only) sent 15 balls over the fence, he has 46 doubles in 200 career games in the minors. In time, he will eventually become a 20-25 home run hitter.
While he does not possess Mike Trout-like speed on the base paths, he still runs them well. While stealing might not be his area of expertise (11 stolen bases in 21 attempts), he has the speed necessary to be an extra-base hit machine, producing eight triples in his career as well.
Thaiss is not going to hit the big leagues in 2018. However, 2019 seems very likely for the lefty to make his debut in Anaheim. The Angels know this, and this is why they are looking for a short-term answer at first. The names listed at the beginning of this article are all 1-2 year solutions, which would provide a smooth transition to Thaiss taking over.
Thaiss brings a calm, cool, and collected manner to the plate, similar to Albert Pujols. When Thaiss hits The Show, “The Machine” will be looking his replacement dead in the eye. Hopefully, Thaiss can learn a few tricks from the future Hall of Famer.