Former top prospect, Max Stassi, needs a big 2017 to stay relevant for the Astros, and so far, he has done just that.
With the addition of Brian McCann and the emergence of Garrett Stubbs, the Astros have plenty of depth at the catcher position. That leaves Max Stassi, and new addition Juan Centeno, as the odd men out as far as future positions with the team goes. For Stassi, the potential to contribute at the major league level is still there. He just needs to show that he still has the skills to make something of himself.
Stassi has 48 at-bats, while Centeno has an even 50. Both have hit well to this point in the season, but I want to focus on Stassi because he is playing to keep his name in the conversation for the future at catcher. His power numbers aren’t astronomical, he has five doubles, and no home runs or triples, but he is avoiding strikeouts and getting on base. He has a batting average of .313 and has recorded seven walks to eleven strikeouts.
Stassi has always been known for his solid defense and strong throwing arm. Catchers who can hit at a .275 to .300 batting average rate with solid defense are valuable. He has shown decent power in the past, hitting 76 home runs and 114 doubles in 584 career minor league games. If he could hit .275 with 10-15 home runs at the major league level, he would be a very valuable asset to a major league club. The catcher very well be trying out for other major league clubs every time he takes the field in Fresno. He is in the same boat as Preston Tucker, where he can contribute to a major league team right now, but his home club is stacked at his position.
His platoon-mate Juan Centeno, would probably be the first to get the call if something were to happen to one of the bearded twins manning the spot in Houston currently. Centeno has a major league track record, playing in 79 Major League games, and hitting at a career average rate of .236. He is a career back-up catcher, and would make a decent back-up player to McCann or Evan Gattis. Stassi would have to really out-perform Centeno in order to get that spot, and seeing that Centeno is hitting .340 in 50 at-bats, that may be hard.
Stassi hasn’t had a ton of huge games in Fresno, but he has been consistent up to this point in the season. On April 29, against the Reno Aces, Stassi went 4-5 with two RBI, all four hits were singles, and no one attempted to run on him. The Grizzlies won 6-2. Then this past Wednesday, in a 9-5 victory over the Sacramento River Cats, Stassi went 2-3 with a walk, and hit two doubles. He knocked in a run, and scored two himself. He did give up a stolen base however.
The Astros minor league system continues to impress with the depth that it holds. With capable players littered throughout the upper levels of the minors, the team has the depth that you look for in a championship contending team. Look for Max Stassi, and other young prospects to contribute to what has the makings of a special 2017 season.
**Statistics courtesy of MiLB.com and Baseball Reference**