The LA Angels knew when they drafted Matt Thaiss in the first round in 2016 out of Virginia that he was a quick learner with a sweet swing. So far Thaiss has learned two new positions & is adjusting at the plate.
While Matt Thaiss is still a work in progress, but he is starting to show the LA Angels that he belongs in the major leagues. Thaiss was recalled in on one of the most difficult nights of the season having to join the Angels in Texas on July 3rd to play the first game after the death of Tyler Skaggs. Thaiss was immediately put into the starting line-up against Texas and promptly got a double and scored a run helping the Angels to a 9-4 victory.
Thaiss has had his struggles at the plate and in the field, but he has persevered and on Sunday he got his biggest hit of his young career a 9th inning walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Angels an improbable 5-4 victory that halted a three-game losing streak. It was Thaiss’ second home run of the game and it gave the Angels a much-needed victory after losing two heart-breaking losses to the Orioles. Thaiss is batting only .189 with four homers and nine RBIs, but he is not going to go down without a fight and is starting to show why the Angels are so high on him.
What has made Thaiss development more amazing is that since being drafted he has had to learn not one, but two positions. Thaiss was always a catcher growing up and only played first base once he was drafted by the Angels and started playing in their minor league system. He learned quickly sporting a .989 fielding percentage at first base in the past three years in the minors.
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However with all the injuries the Angels have had this season, the Angels asked Thaiss to take up another new position, third base. Thaiss did’ miss a beat put in extra work to learn his second new position. While he is still learning the position Thaiss has made some great plays already at third including a play where Thaiss dove to his left, got up and threw out Mac Williamson to preserve the Angels awe-inspiring no-hitter against Seattle on July 12th on a night where the whole team donned #45 jerseys in honor of Tyler Skaggs. Thaiss’ play was one of many amazing moments that occured on that night and he said it was something he would not forget any time soon.
“It was such a special night to be a part of and the way Cole and Pena were pitching we were doing everything we could to make every play behind them and that was one of them. It was something special to be a part of” said Thaiss of the no-hitter. “`I feel good out there (at third base), I still have a ways to go. I excited to be taking the steps to get there and I want to be the best third baseman I can be. Day in day out I’m going to do what it takes to get there.”
With everything that has happened in the first 20 games Thaiss’ indoctrination into the major has been a baptism by fire, but according to Thaiss the team’s veteran leaders have helped to make him more comfortable.
“It was a very exciting moment (when he got called up to the majors), one I will never forget. We have a lot of great veteran leaders on this team that have made the transistion much easier,” Thaiss said. “This Spring Kole Calhoun starting hitting with him and that really helped me a lot. Trouty and J-UP have been great as well. This team has been amazing to be a part. They come and compete every day and that’s all you can ask for.”
At the beginning of the season the Angels were planning on having Justin Bour as their left-handed option at first base to give Albert Pujols some much needed rest and provide some pop from the left side of the plate. Unfortunately for the Angels and Bour he was not able to respond in a way that he or the Angels have hoped. Bour could have gone down to minors and sulked. Instead he continued to work hard to get back to the majors. In addition to working to get back to the majors, Bour became a mentor to Thaiss and showed some veteran leadership that has helped Thaiss to have more confidence.
“JB’s awesome. He has a lot of experience. There are parts of the game that he knows how to handle things and he has been a great help for me,” Thaiss said.
Just a couple of years ago Thaiss was down in Inland Empire in Single-A where he had a chance to play with guys like Taylor Ward, Justin Anderson, Michael Hermosillo, Jake Jewell, David Fletcher, and Jared Walsh. The fact that some of these guys plus young players with a little more experience like David Fletcher were with the Angels made Thaiss much more comfortable.
“Being with guys that I have come up with has helped make this transition easier because sometimes as a young guy you don’t want to bother a guy who has been here awhile with a tough question,so it’s nice to have a guy like David Fletcher who is fairly new too,” Thaiss said. “Fletch always seems to have the answers.”
Not only does Thaiss have David Fletcher, but he is sharing time at first base with a living legend in future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Who could be better to learn from than a guy like Pujols?
“There is no one for me that is better to learn from. The days I’m not playing the field I try to watch everything he does and learn from it,” Thaiss said. “He is one of the best to ever play there (first base),” Thaiss said. “For me to just be able to watch what he does is amazing.”
Sunday’s two homer game for Thaiss will be the first of many impressive performances to come in what is sure to be a stellar career. Keep an eye on Matt Thaiss and watch him develop into the player that the Angels believe that he will become. Welcome to the Majors Matt. Keep up the good work.