Alexi Casilla was scatter-brained and inept during his first extended stint with the Twins in 2007, hitting .222/.256/.259 with 10 errors in 56 games after taking over at second base following the late-July trade that sent Luis Castillo to the Mets. Not surprisingly he began last season at Triple-A, but Casilla was called up six weeks later when Nick Punto landed on the disabled list and jump-started the lineup in the No. 2 hole, hitting .313/.351/.424 through 62 games.
Unfortunately, his strong play was halted by a late-July thumb injury that required a month-long stay on the DL, and Casilla has been a mess ever since. Since coming off the shelf on Aug. 21, Casilla has hit just .204/.276/.257 in 60 games, including .167/.231/.202 with increasingly bad defense and decision-making in 24 games this season. Ron Gardenhire and the Twins decided Wednesday that they’d seen enough, sending Casilla back to Triple-A.
Matt Tolbert was called up from Triple-A to replace Casilla on the roster, and Gardenhire will no doubt give the poor man’s Punto a long look at second base, but as a 27-year-old with a .287/.347/.417 line in 144 games at Rochester he’s hardly a starting-caliber player. Brendan Harris is another option and is a better bet than Tolbert offensively, but Gardenhire has made it very clear that he’s uncomfortable with his defense at second base.
Finding more at-bats for Harris isn’t a bad idea, and Tolbert is the type of aggressively mediocre player Gardenhire always loves, but ultimately the move was more about Casilla than his replacements, and the Twins seemingly still view him as part of their long-term plans. However, at this point, there’s plenty of reason to question whether he still warrants that view. Casilla made a big impact prior to last year’s injury, but has surrounded those two strong months with poor performances in the majors and minors.
Not only did he hit .222/.256/.259 with bad defense for the Twins in 2007 and .204/.276/.257 with many mistakes since last August, his .257/.344/.316 mark in 129 games at Triple-A hardly suggests big-time potential. Was the .300-hitting speedster with plus range and gap power just a mirage? I’d love to think otherwise, but Casilla has now hit .249/.300/.319 in 739 plate appearances with the Twins after batting .266/.351/.331 in 752 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. That’s a lot of bad offense.
Casilla has plenty of valuable skills and, at 24 years old, is hardly a lost cause, but at this point, waiting for that guy from early last season to return is wishful thinking. His production in the high minors was anything but impressive, and he’s basically been a replacement-level player through 187 games in the majors, posting a measly .619 OPS while playing mediocre, mistake-filled defense. Aside from those two months last season, nothing Casilla has done in the past three years predicts long-term success.
It was fun while it lasted, though.