Sep 23, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Alexi Casilla (12) is tagged out by Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Molina (28) during the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Casilla spent seven years as a valuable middle infielder for Minnesota and the last two as a fringe player for Baltimore. He enters the Rays camp with the middle infield positions up for grabs. The Rays don’t yet know whether Asdrubal Cabrera will play shortstop and second base, and Casilla will have an outside chance to make the Rays if Cabrera is at second base.
Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham headline the competition to start alongside Cabrera, but neither is even a sure bet to make the team. Franklin needs to prove himself defensively at shortstop and against left-handed pitching while Beckham is coming off an injury-riddled year and has a questionable minor league track record at the plate. Casilla, meanwhile, might be a better defender at short than either of them and easily has the best speed as well.
The issue with Casilla, though, is his inability to hit. He has just a .247/.302/.331 line (73 OPS+) for his career and done anything at the plate since 2011. Unless shortstop defense is truly an enormous issue, the Rays are better off going with either Franklin or Beckham, both of whom have significantly higher offensive upside. Casilla will likely head to Triple-A Durham, where he will be ready in case somebody gets injured or falters.