With all of the trades taking place this past season the depth in the Astros system has improved significantly. One of the few remaining areas in which the system stood a little thin was catching depth, which Luhnow addressed by acquiring catching prospect Max Stassi in the Jed Lowrie and Francisco Rodriguez trade yesterday. Stassi was ranked as the best defensive backstop in the Oakland A's system while also providing power potential behind the dish as well.
Stassi was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the A's and signed for $1,500,000. He was rated as one of the top prep catching prospects going into the draft and was lauded for his strong makeup and well-rounded game behind the plate. He also possessed a decent amount of upside offensively which made him all the more intriguing. During his senior season in high school he played through shoulder soreness which raised a little concern among scouts, but his stock remained high and he signed for a large bonus.
Unfortunately for Stassi the shoulder issue did not disappear and plagued him on and off again until May 2011 when he had surgery. He suffered through other nagging injuries in 2012, but appears to have put the shoulder injury behind him finally.
Offensively Stassi hasn't quite lived up to his pre-draft potential thus far. In his first full season in 2010 he hit .229/.310/.380 with 13 homeruns while striking out 30% of the time. The following season Stassi was limited to only 139 plate appearances and posted a .231/.331/.331 slash line at the High-A level. He repeated High-A ball in 2012 and showed improvement at the plate while hitting .264 with 15 homeruns. He also had a successful showing in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .271/.314/.396 in 52 plate appearances. He's one that has yet to have a chance to get in a groove offensively due to the fact that he's always been slowed by injuries that has caused inconsistent playing time and at-bats up to this point. Here's what others have had to say about his offense.
Scouts like the pop in Stassi's bat and he's produced solid power when healthy, but his strike zone judgment is substandard and he simply swings-and-misses a lot. His swing is sound enough and his power is real, but he chases too many pitches outside the zone. Stassi should be expected to hit home runs, but his batting average and OBP have not been a strength to this point. - John Sickels
He has a simple swing with few moving parts and a short load and stride, and generates enough raw power to hit 15-20 homers. His pitch recognition has improved, but he still tends to press and is susceptible to chasing pitches outside the zone. - Jim Shonerd, Baseball America
Defensively Stassi still looks to be an above average catcher in spite of losing a year of development to injuries. His receiving and blocking ability is said to be strong, and he possesses a strong accurate arm although he may still be working back from his shoulder injury in that regard. Stassi has also received praise from scouts over his game calling ability, and how he handles a pitching staff. MLB.com had this profile on him prior to the 2009 draft that talked about his catching ability, and some of the intangibles that he possesses behind the plate.
In conclusion, there's little to question about Stassi's defensive abilities and his make up. His upside will depend on how his bat develops and his ability to stay healthy. As of now he projects to have above average power potential, but needs to improve his plate discipline and contact ability. If he's able to do this while staying healthy then he could be in for a breakout season this year.