Max Stassi is leaving little doubt to who the Astros third catcher will be.
With five games under their belt, it is still too early to proclaim any spring battles winners yet. Sunday night Hunter Atkins joined us on Talking Stros. According to Atkins, there are not too many spots open on the Astros roster. He also gives A.J. Reed little chance of making to team while Yuli Gurriel is suspended. You can listen to his interview here or by scrolling down.
One thing that Atkins did communicate was that it is unclear how much Evan Gattis will catch this season. The team would like to carry a third catcher to allow Gattis to be the DH without risking losing the DH if he needs to catch. Before camp started, A.J. Hinch said that Max Stassi and Tim Federowicz would compete for the third catcher.
With World Series hopes aplenty this year, there will be zero room for players who aren’t performing. If there is a better option, the Astros showed last year that they are not afraid to make a change. In other words, they can’t afford to carry a third catcher if he doesn’t perform.
The Astros will take a hard look at Stassi this spring to see what he can offer. Stassi was once one of the most promising prospects in the system, but injuries have derailed his career so far.
Back in 2013, Stassi was playing in his second big league game when he was hit in the face with a pitch. In 2016, he had wrist surgery that caused him to miss a lot of time. Stassi was able to return last September and show some potential, but he doesn’t have a long history of success. If he hits one more homer this spring, it will tie his career totals.
We haven’t seen the best of Stassi.
Five years since his debut in 2013, Stassi has had limited stints with the Astros. Stassi was even placed on waivers last year to open a spot on the 40-man roster prior to spring training last year. No one placed a claim on him, so he reported to Triple-A camp. Instead of getting down in the dumps, Stassi worked on getting better.
Last year seemed to be the year of Juan Centeno, who got of to a quick start in his first two games. It was surprising that Centeno made the playoff roster over Stassi last year. It seemed like the writing was on the way that they were going to move on from Stassi. So it was surprising when they placed Centeno back on waivers before camp. He is now with the Rangers.
It didn’t matter anyway, Brian McCann and Gattis didn’t miss much time. Gattis will become a free agent next year, and McCann is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. He has a vesting option for 2019. This is Stassi’s time to shine with the Astros. He is out of options.
If he does not make the 25-man roster, he would have to be placed on waivers. So it was very important for Stassi to get off to a good start this spring to earn his keep. In his first five at-bats, Stassi is batting .400 with two homers and three RBIs. His homer yesterday was a no-doubter.
Stassi will not maintain a .2000 OPS all spring, but if he continues playing well, he will make Hinch’s decision easier.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***