Max Stassi has proven he’s a legit power-hitting catcher, but he plays a position where defense is an integral part of reaching the major leagues.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against Memphis at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, the RedHawks’ catcher was hitting .249 with five home runs and 29 RBIs, the most RBIs of any catcher in the 16-team Pacific Coast League.
A fourth-round pick out of high school by Oakland in 2009, Stassi was acquired by the Houston Astros a year ago in a trade involving shortstop Jed Lowrie. It appears his offensive skills will translate to the majors. But what about his work behind the plate?
“I feel my defense is coming along good,” Stassi said. “At first I wasn’t throwing as well as I’d like. I’ve made some adjustments with Jeff Murphy, our catching instructor, who is at every home game.”
Stassi, 23, has worked on his mechanics with Murphy, a former bullpen catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He’s really helped me with the mindset of the game and how to go about my business,” Stassi said. “He’s worked with some of the best catchers in baseball: Yadier Molina and Mike Matheny. He’s really helped me out a lot. He does a phenomenal job.”
Even if he goes 0-for-4, Stassi can help win games, whether it’s nursing a pitcher out of a jam, blocking potential wild pitches, throwing out base stealers or, most importantly, calling a good game.
“Playing catcher is so different than any other position because we’re involved with every pitch,” Stassi said. “When a pitcher doesn’t have his best stuff, you try to help them get through it. Every pitcher is different.
“Communication is big, learning how to relate to your pitchers. You have to make sure you’re on the same page. You try to build a trust that he knows you’re back there working for him, that you’re suggesting the right pitches.”