Curt Casali was acquired from Tampa Bay this May to fill the backup catcher spot that was left empty when Mesoraco was traded to the Mets. Not much was made of the deal at the time considering Barnhart was off to a great start Casali’s career numbers did not inspire much discussion. Fast forward to now and Casali has put together a very impressive 104 plate appearances with the Reds, slashing .322/.398/.533 to the tune of a 148 wRC+. Add in slight positive defensive value and that is nearly 1 fWAR in 36 games for a backup backstop. Not too shabby.

The question I find myself asking as I look through Casali’s Fangraphs page is “where is this coming from and can he sustain it?” A perfectly reasonable assumption would be random variance that is not indicative of Casali’s ability and will not last much longer. However, the Reds have had success finding relatively unwanted players who have become key contributors, so maybe there is something more.

The first place to start is the lack of experience that Casali has accumulated. Despite playing in five different seasons, he only has about one season’s worth of playing time to his name. That makes drawing any conclusions about improvements or changes he has made throughout his career really tough to do.

The first thing that jumps out is that in the two previous years in which is played the most, he had one really strong year and one not-so-strong year. In 2015, Casali struck out a lot but hit a lot of fly balls and hit for a ton of power, posting a .594 SLG and .356 ISO. In 2016, he struck out even more and saw huge drops in batting average in power. Obviously not a good combination, leading to a 67 wRC+ for half a season of at-bats.

This year he has gained back some of his power and a lot of batting average. Part of this is due to less fly balls and more line drives, which are inflating his batting average and BABIP (.362). While that is very high and may seem like he is getting lucky, he has also significantly cut down on strikeouts, down from 30% and 32% in 2015/2016 to 17% this year.

Adding in the Statcast data helps to paint a slightly clearer picture. Even in 2015 when Casali was raking with a much lower BABIP, his xSLG and xwOBA were .420 and .308, respectively. Compare that to this year with a .436 and .349 and there is some merit to his improvements. There is certainly room for some regression from his .396 wOBA, but it may not be as much as originally thought.

Put everything together and Casali’s one season worth of data adds up to a respectable .221/.306/.412 for a 96 wRC+. Any team would happily take that production from backup catcher, especially coupled with strong defense.  Considering he is team-controlled for three more seasons through his age 32 campaign, this could prove to be another savy move by the Reds front office.

6 Responses

  1. Scott C

    What I see, and I have no data to back this up, is that Casali hits the ball hard. He seems to have pretty good plate discipline and hits well with 2 strikes. So I do not think there will be much regression. Again we blame the FO for a lot of things, rightfully so, but Casali seems to be another good fine especially with three more years of control.

  2. lost11found

    This is a positive development from the Harvey/Mes deal that give the Reds good flexibility out of the C spot going forward, Giving Barnhardt some additional days off and perhaps Votto too with Barnhardt at 1B and Casali behind the plate.

  3. cfd3000

    There’s so little data, and it’s really tough to get into a great hitting rhythm when you don’t play every day or even most of the time. So it’s pretty much impossible to predict how well Casali might hit in future. But you can say two things with certainty. His production so far has been fantastic. And he clearly has the ability to hit well going forward. Whether or not he DOES remains to be seen, but this has to be added to the strong side of the ledger of recent Reds transactions. Welcome to Cincinnati Curt Casali!

  4. Coach R

    I’ve known Curt since Cal Ripken baseball. First and foremost, Curt is a contact hitter, though obviously he can hit for power. When he was brought up to the majors by Tampa Bay in 2015 they altered his plate discipline and stressed that he swing for power. It worked out OK in his first stint in the big leagues but lead to many more K’s than you will see him put up now.
    In 2016, the new plate philosophy did not work well for Curt at all and caused him to stumble in his career. If you take a look at his stats in AAA ball over the last couple of seasons you will see the return to contact hitting, once again, with the occasional power and greatly reduced K’s.
    Obviously, a .322 batting average is a high bar to uphold but I will be most surprised if he is not one of the better hitting back up catchers in the majors for the next number of years.

    • Show Triple Slash

      It’s things like Matthew’s article and this comment that make me glad I support and check out redlegnation most every day, usually multiple times each day. Great info.

  5. roger garrett

    You just never know until a guy is giving playing time.Often guys are just said to be this or that but legit time either on the mound or inn the field make all the difference.He should play more the rest of the way.No reason not to because we know about Tucker.