Acquired: 2011 MLB Draft, 10th Round
Ranking History: #59 (2011)
The Tigers selection of Casali in the 10th round continued a recent pipeline from Vanderbilt to the Tigers minor league system. The senior signed quickly, played ten games with Connecticut in 2011 and then moved on for 25 games with Low-A West Michigan down the stretch. All told, Casali hit .243 in his 35-game debut, walking 19 times and striking out just 14, while popping nine doubles and three home runs.
The Tigers returned Casali to West Michigan for the start of the 2012 season and he hit .288/.402/.500 in 48 games for the Whitecaps. He again walked more than he struck out while also ripping 12 doubles and eight home runs.
Around mid-season the Tigers moved Casali up a level to High-A Lakeland where he saw action in 46 games. He struggled with the promotion, hitting just .250 with far less power in the offensively difficult Florida State League, but he still maintained solid walk and strikeout rates, all while playing good defense.
Casali is a defense-first backstop with arguably the best glove in the system. He has a stocky 6-foot-2 build that is strong and designed for durability behind the plate. He is not a strong athlete but he moves well enough to handle the position.
Casali has a lot of intangibles behind the plate, including his ability to frame pitches, command the game and get the most out of his pitching staff. He is a heady defender with quality catch-and-throw skills that should act as an additional coach on the field.
Casali has good feel for contact. He can get the barrel of the bat to the ball consistently and rarely strikes out. He likes to take a patient approach at the plate but his knowledge of the system can get the best of him as he lets borderline pitches go and works himself into poor hitter's counts at times. Against more advanced pitching, he could stand to be a little more aggressive early in the count, finding fastballs he can drive.
He doesn't have the best bat speed in the world but has enough to catch up to quality velocity. He will cheat a bit at times, trying to get into the zone early and really drive the ball, but that gets in trouble when pitchers go soft or try and spin against him.
Casali likes to pull the ball and needs to work on going the other way with pitches on the outer half. He is an intelligent hitter that has a chance to develop this ability with additional focus.
Casali has the defense, leadership and solid offensive approach to at least profile in a backup role. If he can develop a more aggressive approach against better pitchers, he could make hay as a second-division starter with some pop and good defense.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Casali has a durable catcher's build but has battled some injuries throughout his career. He had some hamstring problems during his college career and his ulner collateral ligament required repair following the 2009 season.
It is easy to hold Casali's long-term projection in the backup range, particularly considering he is already 24-years old and has yet to experience Double-A. That said, he has moved quickly since signing and shows both the offensive and defensive aptitude to slightly outpace that projection. If he can handle the jump to Double-A in 2013, he could be on the radar as a possible platoon mate with Alex Avila in 2014 and could max out as a second-division type.
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