Earlier this week we looked at Miami Hurricanes catcher Zack Collins, who combines power and patience at the plate with a glove that is in need of polish. There's another catcher for the 2016 draft class with a similar profile: University of Virginia backstop Matt Thaiss. Let's take a look.
A high school player in Jackson, New Jersey, Thaiss was considered third or fourth round material for the 2013 draft but his college commitment resulted in strong signability questions, pushing him down to the 32nd round where the Boston Red Sox drafted him. A part-timer as a freshman, he hit .265/.306/.358 in 68 at-bats. As a sophomore in 2015 he took over as the regular catcher and thrived, hitting .323/.413/.512 with 10 homers, 33 walks, and 26 strikeouts in 254 at-bats, leading the Cavaliers in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
A note of caution was sounded when Thaiss hit just .149/.197/.254 in 67 at-bats in the Cape Cod League last summer, with uncharacteristically poor strike zone judgment: two walks, 18 strikeouts. However, Thaiss has completely turned that around this spring, hitting .366/.468/.557 for Virginia with seven homers, 32 walks, and an incredibly low strikeout rate with just eight whiffs. Nobody seems concerned about Cape Cod at this point.
Thaiss is a 6-0, 195 pound left-handed hitter born May 6th, 1995. Thaiss has exceptionally good feel for the strike zone and a clean line drive swing. Although lacking big raw power, he has enough bat speed to get the ball over the fences, especially given his ability to recognize hittable offerings and lay off pitches he can't drive. He should hit for solid batting averages and high OBPs with moderate power.
His defense draws mixed reviews. On the physical side, his arm is decently strong and he has some athleticism, leading the optimists to project him as a solid defender eventually. Pessimists point to his rather high passed ball and error rates, reflecting the need to sharpen his blocking and receiving skills, and note that he doesn't make the most out of his arm. All agree that he's worked hard to improve his glove but it is fair to say that the results are incomplete.
If you think Thaiss will be a decent defender eventually, he's a certain first rounder and maybe sooner than people think; a team that believes in the glove could target him for an under-slot deal. If you think that he's destined for first base, he is more of a compensation round pick. Either way his bat will get him drafted on day one, especially given the relative lack of polished college bats.
This Prospect Junkies video has some defensive views.