The Angels used their first-round pick on a college catcher for the second consecutive year, selecting Virginia’s Matt Thaiss with the 16th pick Thursday on the first day of the draft.
They took high school outfielder Brandon Marsh, a two-sport standout from the Atlanta area who some scouts have compared to Houston Astros slugger Colby Rasmus, with their second-round (60th overall) pick.
“It was an exciting day,” Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said. “It started with what we think is one of the top hitters in this year’s draft, and we backed that up with a high-ceiling, athletic guy who has a lot of tools.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Thaiss led Virginia in batting average (.375), home runs, runs batted in, total bases, slugging percentage (.578) and on-base percentage (.473) this season.
A product of Jackson Memorial High in New Jersey, Thaiss played sparingly as a freshman but won the catching job as a sophomore and batted .323 with a .413 OPB, .512 slugging percentage and 10 homers to help the Cavaliers win the College World Series.
There was some concern among scouts last summer when Thaiss had a .149/.197/.254 slash line in 67 at-bats in the wood-bat Cape Cod League and showed poor strike-zone judgment, with 18 strikeouts and two walks.
But the left-handed-hitting Thaiss, who has good power to all fields, reversed that trend as a junior, striking out 16 times and drawing 39 walks in 232 at-bats.
“His control of the zone, his ability to make contact to all fields, the easiness of his swing, his pitch recognition and plate discipline … all led us to believe he’ll be an above-average hitter or better,” Wilson said.
“I love catching and being involved in every play,” Thaiss said, “but I’m definitely open to playing other positions.”
Major League Baseball has assigned a slot value of $2.661 million for the 16th pick. The Angels used the 26th pick of the 2015 draft on Taylor Ward, a Fresno State catcher who is at Class-A Inland Empire this season.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Marsh hit .559 with nine strikeouts for Buford High and was a standout receiver on the football team.
He has above-average speed and a strong arm, and Wilson believes that he will develop power from the left side. “He runs well enough to play center field and has the arm to play the corners,” Wilson said. “The raw tools he has are very exciting.”
The draft resumes Friday with rounds 3-10, and then rounds 11-40 on Saturday.
The Angels activated right-hander Cory Rasmus from the 15-day disabled list and inserted him into Thursday’s game for an inning. He gave up one run on two hits. Rasmus, who took the roster spot of left-hander Greg Mahle, had been sidelined since last month because a strained hamstring.
Manager Mike Scioscia said that shortstop Gregorio Petit will remain with the team when Andrelton Simmons is activated from the disabled list, perhaps as soon as Sunday. Petit, a 31-year-old who has spent most of his career in the minor leagues, has played better than expected with Simmons sidelined. He could usurp some of Johnny Giavotella’s starts at second base. Simmons moved his rehab assignment to triple-A Salt Lake after a stint with Class-A Inland Empire.
DiGiovanna reported from Los Angeles; Moura reported from New York.