In what has been a frustrating season for the Tampa Bay Rays, no player might have been tougher to watch than Jose Molina. He still is getting good reviews on his pitch-framing, but he has turned from barely passable at the plate into looking helpless, as he’s hit just .178/.232/.188 on the year, good for a 76% below league average 24 wRC+. As such, the Rays could look to cut ties with the catcher this offseason despite his guaranteed $2.75 million salary for 2015. However, Curt Casali hasn’t made the decision to potentially let go of Molina any easier.
Called-up when Ryan Hanigan went on the 15-day DL back in July, many were hoping Casali could play his way into the Rays’ backup catcher role even when Hanigan returned. Though his .237/.355/.359 line in 46 Triple-A games was underwhelming, Casali was coming off a 57 game stint at Double-A at the end of the 2013 season and beginning of 2014 in which he hit an outstanding .358/.490/.537. He wasn’t anything too spectacular on defense, but his caught stealing rate had never dropped below 28% in the minor leagues. There were plenty of questions still surrounding Casali when he was promoted, but it looked like he had what it took to at least be a capable backup, something that might not even be said for Molina anymore.
In the big leagues, though, Casali has struggled. He has hit just .149/.247/.188 in 28 games, and at times he has looked lost at the plate. Defensively he has looked fine, throwing out 25%, but he isn’t a defensive or pitch-framing whiz by any means. Simply put, Casali had an opportunity to come up and prove that he could a better option than Molina now with more upside in the future, but he has not been able to do so.
After we have seen Casali for a couple of months in the big leagues, it is clear he needs some more time developing at Triple-A. His overall hitting could turn out fine in a backup role, as he has a solid plate approach and he has flashed nice contact skills, though he likely will never hit for a ton of power. But after disappointing numbers at Triple-A and in the big leagues, it is clear he needs more seasoning against advanced pitching before he can crack the Rays’ roster for good. His defense is average or a tick above, but it isn’t good enough to where he can get by without hitting much. Casali could turn into a great backup in the near future, but he isn’t ready to be one just yet.
Jose Molina’s future with the Tampa Bay Rays is still up in the air, but Curt Casali hasn’t stepped up as his heir apparent. We could very well see a different catcher than Molina team up with Hanigan next year to form the Rays’ catching duo, but that catcher isn’t likely to be Casali until he’s had some more minor league seasoning. Casali could still become a nice piece for the Rays, but after a disappointing first taste of MLB action it is clear that there is still work to be done.