Drafted in the 4th round in 2009, Max Stassi signed for 1st round money, netting $1.5 million dollars from the Oakland A's. Stassi was one of two high school catchers who dropped due to signability issues, the other being a guy named Wil Myers who was taken in the 3rd round. Stassi had the better defensive reputation, but wasn't as pure of a hitter. And while he got off to a nice start after signing, he's struggled ever since reaching full-season ball. Acquired by Houston this past offseason in the trade that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland, Stassi was an interesting piece, though he was likely considered the third most valuable player moved to Houston behind Chris Carter and Brad Peacock.
There might have been a bit of hope on the part of Houston fans, as Stassi had just come off his best season as a pro where he hit .268/.331/.468 in his second full season at Stockton in the California League. While that line isn't bad for a 21-year old, it's not exactly awe inspiring, and that's before you take into account his repeating the level and the fact that the Cal League is overflowing with hitters havens. So while all hope wasn't lost, one can be forgiven for not seeing the 2013 that Stassi has put together coming. Thus far he's put together a .280/.342/.561 slash line, an across the board improvement, despite moving from the friendly confines of the Cal League to Double-A and the Texas League. This without seeing a marked change in his BABIP, as it's actually decreased by four points. He's also held his walk rate relatively steady (drop of half a percent) despite the jump to Double-A, as well as decreasing his strikeout percentage from 23.1% to 21.4%. Stassi is currently producing a 149 wRC+, meaning he's hitting 49% better than league average. He's a zero on the basepaths, as you might expect, but seeing his power return after shoulder surgery in May of 2011 is a major boon to his prospect status.
Stassi's shoulder had been giving him issues for a couple years prior to his shoulder surgery in 2011, so it looks like the operation has allowed to get back to himself at the plate. While injuries have kept Stassi off the field at times, and off his game at others, 2013 has been a revelation in both areas. His health has allowed him to get back to a simple swing that still provides plenty of power. He is very quiet at the plate and uses a short stride to get his bat into the zone. His ability to make increased contact with the ball has allowed his strength to shine in 2013, as he's already set a career high in home runs, and his .280 ISO would shatter his previous high of .201. While he's improved at the plate, Stassi isn't invulnerable to good breaking balls. He can press at the plate at times. Stassi should have little to no problems staying behind the plate as his receiving has been a strongsuit of his since the time he was drafted. His arm plays well behind the plate despite the shoulder surgery and should only get stronger as he distances himself from going under the knife.
Stassi isn't a star. And while I put out a call for guys to write about last night, and received many big time names, I always think it's valuable to discuss some more under the radar types who have a good chance at making an impact. Guys with Stassi's power, ability to not be a negative at average and catcher eligibility aren't as common as you might think. This is a guy to keep an eye on and grab when he's on the verge of a call up, as it's unlikely he's attractive enough to be on a minor league roster in most leagues.