Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Max Stassi, C

Early on in spring training, the biggest buzz coming out of the Oakland A's spring training surrounded the youngest player in camp, catcher Max Stassi. The 19-year-old is continuing to make noise during the regular season with Low-A Kane County. He has an OPS above 900 with 10 RBIs through his first 10 games of the season. David Malamut caught-up with the talented backstop for a Q&A...

David Malamut: How was your spring training?

Max Stassi: It was awesome. I had a great time at spring training. It was a lot of fun. I learned a whole lot. It's just this past year since signing, going to Instructional League and stuff, it has been an absolute blast. It's been fun playing baseball everyday. It's kind of surreal that this is my job now, but I'm loving every minute of it, and working hard everyday.

DM: How was big league camp?

MS: Unbelievable, learning from Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell, it was definitely real fortunate to be able to go there. I learned from those guys and just had a real good time up there. I knew the chances of me making the club were about zero, so I was just going in there and having a good time, being all ears and learning from those guys.

DM: What do you think about all of the projections of the publications about you?

MS: I try not to follow all of that. Some of my buddies and some of my family members will say stuff about it. I'm just going out and playing hard every day and seeing where it takes me. You get caught up in that stuff and it you will drive yourself crazy. If you're not here by a single point or there, it's out of my control, so all I'm doing is having fun and playing hard every day.

DM: What is your approach at the plate?

MS: Just look for something elevated and drive it. Right now, I'm focusing on plate discipline, and that the ball is in my zone, and not cheating myself, or helping out the pitcher. That's something I'm really working on right now, and it'll come a lot better with experience. It's just part of this game. The more you play, the better you get.

DM: What is your approach in calling the game behind the plate?

MS: You just got to go by their tendencies. I'm working really well with Jimmy Escalante [Kane County pitching coach]. He does a really great job with scouting reports and hitters tendencies, so it's been going well. It's just something that you have to pay attention to, their results and help yourself as a hitter. You got to go with the pitchers' strength, as well. If someone doesn't have their curveball one day, then you can rely [only] so much on that, so maybe you work on locating the fastball a little bit, so you just have to go to different stuff at different times. If all their stuff is working, it's just the more the better. You got to go by what their strengths are. Working together is the main thing, and being on the same page.

DM: How much has working with former catcher Aaron Nieckula helping you in your catching?

He has helped me a lot so far this year. He has helped with mechanical stuff and the mental aspects of it. Being a former catcher himself that's what I was really looking forward to coming here being with a manager that knows what it's like to be back there and that I can relate to him. I can talk to him about this isn't going so well, and he is, like, ‘I remember in my career just certain instances like that,' and he can help me out with on the field and off the field stuff. He's helping during the games with pitch calling, and he will ask me about certain stuff and I will get back to him, he helps me out quite a bit.

DM: What are your goals for this season?

MS: Number one is just stay healthy. Last year I battled some tendonitis in my arm so I'm just trying to maintain and stay healthy and have a consistent year. It's going to be ups and downs over long periods of time. Me and another teammate were actually talking yesterday and we are 1/14th through the year, so really only a small, small fraction of the year is over. It's just a long year ahead. Take it day-by-day. You can't look at it as the big picture.

DM: How much of a break is it for you to DH, physically/mentally?

MS: It's nice to DH. You get kind of a mental break from being behind the plate and it gives you time to get scouting reports on their hitters making sure seeing what they have and seeing what their strengths and weakness are as hitters, and when my time comes along to catch being ready to go in there with full confidence and knowing what pitches to call.

Physically it's nice, taking a break off your legs and that's one thing I'm working on is maintaining strength in my lower half and making sure I'm strong throughout the entire year.

DM: Coming out of high school, looking back were you ready for pro ball?

MS: Yeah, I was ready for pro ball. In my mind, this summer really hit me playing every day. With the summer ball team before I signed, it was playing every day going to the yard, and just worrying about playing baseball, and that's something that I've always wanted to do. I've never wanted to become anything but a baseball player. I didn't really want to pursue anything else, just coming out to the yard every day and playing, it's not a bad deal, so I love my job.

DM: You could've gone to UCLA. What made your decision to go pro?

MS: College would've been a great experience. It would've been a lot of fun. [Baseball] is my job, playing this every day is something I love to do. Coming down to it, it was a decision, but I'm really happy with my choice. Things are going well so far, and hopefully we just keep on going from there.

DM: What did you learn last year while playing in Arizona and Vancouver?

MS: It was a short stint. Just learning how to take care of yourself every day, learning what baseball is like. Getting a small little taste, going down to Instructional League learning a lot, it's been a whirlwind year. Finally getting settled in, finally getting the hang of it, learning how professional baseball works, it has been a blast.

DM: How great did the first pro homer feel? Take me through the at-bat.

MS: It felt good. It was a left-handed pitcher, and I was battling and he was mixing it up pretty good. I fouled off a couple of pitches and then he came out with the fastball away, I stayed down on it and it carried out to right field and went over the fence. It was a pretty good feeling, first professional homerun, it was pretty special to me, it was awesome.

DM: Did you keep the ball?

MS: No, I didn't keep the ball.

DM: Have you ever played any where else besides catcher?

MS: In high school I played shortstop my freshman year. We didn't have a shortstop. It was fun, but catching is where my heart is and something I love to grind out every day. I just love the pitch-calling. It is one of my favorite things is out-smarting the hitter, and as a hitter, knowing when you get fooled by that pitch that was going through your thought process.

DM: You seemed to have struggled a little bit this season defensively. Is it getting to know the pitchers?

MS: You go through ups and downs in this game. I just kind of hit a low point, just kind of getting the hang of things, getting the jitters out and all of that. Things are getting a lot better. You go in and out of things, sometimes defensively you go into a little slump. I'm working my way out of it, just playing hard every day, working on my footwork and trying to get that worked out.

DM: What was draft day like?

MS: It was pretty fun. It was an up-and-down moment. It was a good time. I had some family and friends over, and once I got my name called and especially by the A's being a hometown team for me, it was really exciting that it was over. All the stuff leading up to it gets crazy. It was a blast. I had a great time. I listened to it online, and I heard my name called on the draft tracker.

DM: Top 5 artists in your iPod?

MS: Rise Against, Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, Dave Matthews, Foo Fighters.

DM: If you had gone to college what would've been your major?

MS: I wouldn't have known, I would've been undecided until probably my junior year, and that's what made the decision so easy. [Being a baseball player] is what I want to become.

DM: Besides baseball, what else do you do?

MS: I like to fish, really just hang out, relaxing more than anything. I like to work-out a couple of hours in the off-season. I'm take up hunting next year, do a lot of hunting next year.

DM: You come from a baseball family. How has that helped you?

MS: My dad, a pro catcher, has helped me out. He made me who I am today. He has helped me out a lot. My grandpa and I never met my great, great uncle, but I've learned a lot from both of them. It has been a true blessing being from a baseball family. [My dad] told me everything and his experiences back in the 80's what it was like, he definitely helped me out quite a bit.

Oakland Clubhouse Top Stories