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Tampa Bay Rays: Curt Casali Has One Last Chance

By David Hill
Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Curt Casali (19) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Curt Casali (19) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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When the Tampa Bay Rays signed Wilson Ramos to a two year deal, the writing was on the wall for Curt Casali. The primary catcher in 2016, he has one last chance to prove himself.

Throughout the history of the Tampa Bay Rays, the catching position has been a weak spot. To say that they have received minimal offensive production there would be an understatement, as a focus on defensive acumen has been the primary criteria. Yet, there was hope that someone would finally end that streak and become a force on both sides of the plate.

Last year, it was Curt Casali’s turn to be the primary catcher. He showed some power in 2015, hitting ten home runs in 113 plate appearances while producing a .238/.304/.594 batting line. If he could produce at that level again in 2016, the Rays would have finally solved their problem at the catcher position.

Instead, he imploded. While Casali had 256 plate appearances, he had a miserable .186/.273/.336 batting line, hitting only eight homers. He showed a solid batting eye, with 25 walks, but Casali also struck out 82 times. With his 11 runs saved, and 36% success rate catching base stealers, he was the epitome of Rays catching once again.

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When the Rays signed Wilson Ramos, it signaled the possible end for Casali as the primary catcher. However, as Ramos is coming back from a torn ACL, and may not be ready to catch when he returns, Casali has one last chance to impress.

There could be a lot riding on Spring Training, and the first few weeks of the season, for Casali. In competition to make the roster, along with Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, nothing is being given to last year’s primary catcher. And, while the Rays may say they are content with their catching situation, that interest in Matt Wieters shows that they may not be as comfortable as they claim.

If Casali can come close to replicating his 2015 batting line while providing solid power and defense, then he may be able to change the narrative about his career. Currently, Casali profiles as a backup catcher, one with an excellent glove and some pop, but little else. An improved contact rate, and an uptick in power could change that.

Next: Beckham's last chance

Curt Casali is going to have one last chance to prove he can be a starting catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. If he will ever be more than a backup, the time to prove it is now.

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