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OC Register: Angels prospect Matt Thaiss continues to impress early in camp


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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After a season spent re-learning his swing, Matt Thaiss spent a winter locking down the changes.

So far, it seems to have worked.

Thaiss, one of the Angels’ top prospects, has seven hits in his first 10 at-bats in Cactus League play. It is the follow-up to a season in which the left-handed hitting first baseman batted .280 with 16 homers and an .802 OPS, starting at Double-A and finishing at Triple-A.

“This was a more productive winter for me because of having a year working with Jeremy Reed and Shawn Wooten,” Thaiss said of the Angels’ hitting coaches who worked with him in the minors last year. “I have been working on the drills they want me doing, and I was able to carry that over to the offseason for the first time. Everything I did was more productive.”

On Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields, Thaiss had an infield hit and a two-run triple, giving him a team-leading eight RBIs so far this spring. Five of his hits are extra-base hits.

Thaiss, 23, was the Angels’ first-round pick in 2016. His first two seasons in the minors he made steady progress, but he said he had issues with the position of his hands in 2017.

With the help of Reed and Wooten last year, he had a breakthrough.

“We cleaned up a lot of stuff,” Thaiss said. “Now it’s just improving, day in and day out.”

Manager Brad Ausmus, who was a special assistant in the organization last year and saw Thaiss throughout the season, said he’s made impressive progress.

“Last spring when I was here he was in the middle of making a pretty dramatic mechanical change, not so much his swing, but his setup, the onset of his swing,” Ausmus said. “He took to it really quickly, even in spring training. All season he swung the bat extremely well. He’s gotten strong. He’s driving the ball farther. I just think he’s going to continue to be on the trajectory in terms of both hitting and power. I just think he’s going to get better and better.”

Thaiss said he gained 5 to 10 pounds over the winter in hopes of adding some more power, which is a prerequisite to be a big-league first baseman.

“I would love to hit home runs,” Thaiss said. “For me, I know if I drive the ball into gaps, the doubles will turn into home runs and the doubles will turn into triples. That’s the process. If I put a good swing on it, hopefully, I have the power to get it out.”

Thaiss is also still developing as a first baseman, having been a catcher throughout college at the University of Virginia. When the Angels drafted him, they immediately moved him because they were more interested in his bat than what he provided as a catcher.

“My first year and a half, I definitely felt like a catcher over at first base,” Thaiss said. “I had a tendency to drop and block a few times, but I think that’s come a long way.”

Thaiss has come almost all the way to the majors, having finished last season at Triple-A and now gotten off to a hot start in big-league camp.

It will be difficult for him to crack the big-league roster unless Albert Pujols or Justin Bour gets hurt.

“You have to have tunnel vision,” Thaiss said. “You take it one day at a time and hope that day comes, but you have to focus on what you are doing at a given time.”

ALSO

Shohei Ohtani increased his swings off a tee to 40 and stood in during Jaime Barría’s bullpen session to adjust to major league velocity. It was the second straight day that Ohtani had stood in against one of the Angels pitchers. Ohtani, who has been hitting off a tee for six days, is still progressing toward being able to hit balls flipped by a coach. …

Matt Harvey is scheduled for his first game action of the spring on Saturday, in a ‘B’ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Tempe. Harvey said he felt fine on Wednesday, a day after he threw live batting practice. Harvey did not throw for three days earlier this spring because of a mild glute strain, but he now seems to be essentially caught up to the other starting pitchers. He will be pitching just two days after Skaggs, who will complete the first run through the Angels’ projected starting rotation. …

Andrelton Simmons (tight trapezius) and Zack Cozart (sore left shoulder) both returned to the lineup on Wednesday. Each had been scratched from the lineup on Sunday with the minor injuries. …

Pujols started at designated hitter for the third time in four days. The Angels planned to be cautious with Pujols this spring because he had two surgeries last year, but he seems to have no issue so far with DH-ing. There will be little need for Pujols to play first during the season until Ohtani is back. “We don’t want him playing first base a bunch of days in a row,” Ausmus said of the spring training plan for Pujols. “We don’t want him to standing on his feet or running too much.”

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13 hours ago, azmancini said:

“We don’t want him to standing on his feet or running too much”    LOL...Isnt that a prerequisite of being a highly paid athlete. 

Or if you work in retail, food,  barbers, mailmen, teachers... damn, it’s going to be hard for Albert to find work after he’s done DHing. It’s the only job he can qualify for and he barely can do that. He can’t even stand long enough for the de facto retirement job, Walmart greeter 

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