Tigers Prospect Profile: Curt Casali
By John Verburg
The scouting reports continue with another catcher that the Tigers have recently drafted in Curtis Casali. Casali is interesting to me, because there seems to be a wide variety of opinions on him. Everything from him possibly being a starter to never making it in the pros. One baseball analyst on draft day called Casali, the “steal of the draft”. I wish I could remember who that analyst was, but things were flying fast and furious on twitter that day, so it’s difficult to say so with any accuracy. Besides, guys fall in love with certain players as they get to know them, but it did intrigue me enough to investigate further.
After sifting through some information I’ve received on Casali, here is his scouting report.
Casali was drafted in the 10th round out of Vanderbilt University in the 2011 draft. The 23 year old right-handed hitting catcher is a big guy at 6’2″ and 230 lbs. After a pretty successful college career, which included a Tommy John surgery for his throwing arm, Casali became one of the leaders on a Vanderbilt team that is considered one of the best in the country. After the Tigers drafted Casali in 2011, they didn’t waste any time getting him some playing time. Assigned to short-season Connecticut to start, Casali didn’t last long there, playing 10 games, before getting pushed to West Michigan. Between both stops, Casali put up a batting average of .243, while hitting 3 home runs and 9 doubles in 111 at-bats. He produced a good OPS of .771, showing an ability to draw a walk, collecting 19 of them against just 14 strikeouts.
As a hitter, Casali’s greatest, or best tool is his good raw power. It doesn’t necessarily stand out, but he does have the ability to drive the ball to the gaps and the opposite field with some authority on occasion. Like most hitters, his power is best to the pull side, and there is 15 homer a year plus potential here. Casali displays a patient approach doing a good job of pitch recognition, and will not chase out of the zone a ton. While he does display a good patient approach, and has some strength due to his big frame, his power comes more from muscling the ball instead of a swing that generates good bat speed. His swing can get long at times, which can make it difficult for him to get out in front on fastballs to use that good pull power.
Defensively, most consider Casali plus behind the dish. As time goes on, his frame is going to slow him down, and he isn’t athletic enough in my opinion to move on to a different position. He does show solid pop times, most of time coming in at sub 2 seconds. He has a strong arm that is accurate and is still working its way back from Tommy John, and his make up is reportedly way above average.
I usually try to give an opinion that is somewhat definitive in this section when going over a player, but with Casali it is going to be difficult to do until I get to see him myself. I should be able to do that in West Michigan at some point this season. Obviously, his patient approach, and potential to hit for some power, make him an intriguing catcher. So much so, some people believe that he may actually be the better catcher out of him and 2nd rounder James McCann. Casali’s frame reminds me of John Buck, the catcher of the Miami Marlins, and with the exception of plate discipline, have a pretty similar offensive game as well.
However, what is holding me back, is someone I trust telling me that Casali lacks any standout tool, and that he wasn’t impressed with Casali after seeing him numerous times. Given the difference of opinion on Casali, at this point, I am only comfortable projecting a back up catcher ceiling for him. He bears watching going forward to see if he can produce against advanced pitching.