LA Angels: Can Matt Thaiss Make the Jump in 2020?

Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

One of the biggest storylines during the LA Angels season was injuries. While injuries are obviously never fun to deal with, they offer young players the chance to prove themselves at the highest level.

One of these prospects in 2019 was Matt Thaiss. After third baseman Tommy La Stella went down due to injury midway through the year, Thaiss was on the roster throughout the rest of the year. As a left-handed hitter, he provides a lot of potential in an Angels’ lineup that has been desperate for lefty-power for years.

La Stella provided that until his injury, and Thaiss showed serious flashes of his potential to do the same last season. While his overall numbers weren’t overly impressive, he finished the season strong with a .282/.364/.513 slash line in the final month of the season.

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It’s also important to remember that his 147 at-bats is an incredibly small sample size, and most analysts prefer to have at least 300 at-bats before having an opinion on a player’s performance. So while we can’t say whether or not Thaiss will be a major leaguer for years to come, it was obvious that he showed the potential to be that at the plate.

In the field, Thaiss was originally drafted as catcher but quickly made the move to first base upon being drafted by the Angels. However, as the Angels’ organization began to emphasize versatility, Thaiss began working out at third base as well.

When he made his debut, I expected some seriously shaky defense from Thaiss at third base, but he showed he has the reflexes and arm to stick there. While his range won’t ever be up in the elite range, he checks all the other boxes of being a solid defensive third baseman.

Going into 2020, it’s obvious what Thaiss needs to work on. He has great power for both doubles and home runs, but needs to improve his bat-to-ball skills. His hot streak to end the year was nice, but honestly even if Thaiss can put up a consistent .270 batting average with plus power over the course of a season, that’d be a great addition to the Angels’ lineup.

His playing time will be important though, and he might be a victim of a roster crunch. Albert Pujols, Tommy La Stella, and David Fletcher are entrenched as the starters at the corner (Fletcher and La Stella are interchangeable at third, and the other will start at second base). Luis Rengifo and Thaiss will seemingly be the backups in the infield.

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However, Thaiss needs somewhat consistent at-bats to work on his game, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him start the year in Salt Lake City. If he has a phenomenal Spring Training, it could lock up his 25-man spot on Opening Day as a primary backup for the Angels.