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Baltimore Orioles 2013 in review: Alexi Casilla

Alexi Casilla provided an adequate glove and not much else for the Orioles in 2013.

Rob Carr

Alexi Casilla came to the O’s on November 2nd, 2012, when the team claimed him off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. He was signed to provide depth at second base, given the questions around Brian Roberts’s health. When Roberts indeed missed 85 games, Casilla split time with Ryan Flaherty at second, providing terrible offense but above-average defense and speed. After Roberts returned, Casilla manned the bench and started occasionally. His season ended on an unfortunate note, suffering concussion symptoms after colliding with Nick Markakis in the outfield.

After hitting .214/.268/.295 with one home run in 125 PA, Casilla won’t be taking home any awards this season. Among the 29 AL 2B with at least 120 PA, his 51 wRC+ is third-to-last, ahead of just Jamey Carroll and Elliot Johnson. This looks bad, and it is, but he actually did really well in June and July, hitting .354/.387/.559 in 34 PA.

Poor plate discipline really hurt his game. The average major-leaguer swung at 31% of pitches outside the zone; Casilla swung at 37% of them. The average major-leaguer swung at 66% of pitches in the zone; Casilla swung at 59% of them. Because Casilla doesn't swing and miss a lot, he made contact far more often on pitches outside of the zone (77%) than your average major-leaguer (66%). As Matt Wieters can tell you, making contact is good, except when it isn’t.

He fared much better defensively, saving four runs above average according to Defensive Runs Saved. This ranks him 11th out of 26 second basemen who played at least 250 innings at the position. (Flaherty ranked 12th with three runs saved above average; Roberts ranked 14th as an average defender.) Overall, Casilla accumulated 0.2 fWAR.

Buck Showalter used Casilla as a pinch hitter eight times, but in those PA he got only one hit. He hurt the team the most on April 5th against the Minnesota Twins. In the bottom of the 7th, the O's were behind 5-4. There were two outs and runners on second and third. Showalter brought in Casilla to pinch-hit for Flaherty against Casey Fien. Flaherty had stranded five runners in his previous two plate appearances, but Casilla did the same, striking out swinging.

I’m sure Casilla wasn't thinking about that at-bat on June 25th against Cleveland. He started the game against sinkerball specialist Justin Masterson because he hit a home run against Masterson in 2012, but so far this day he’d struck out twice. In the seventh inning, he faced Masterson for the third time, now with two on, one out, and the game tied at 3.

Casilla fouled off the first pitch, a trademark sinker, and then watched a wild pitch go by, moving the runners into scoring position. Masterson then threw the pitch that ended his night: a slider that hung right over the top of the zone. Casilla smashed it over the right-field wall for a three-run homer, putting the O's up 6-3 and effectively ending the game right there. I’m sure Casilla treasured rounding the bases and being greeted by his teammates at home plate.

If Casilla sticks around for 2014, it’ll be as a backup or a platoon player. The Orioles hold a team option on him for $3 million, nearly twice what he earned this year, although they could pay his $200,000 buyout and hope to re-sign him at a lower price. Ryan Flaherty is in the mix, as is Jonathan Schoop, as is the possibility of re-signing Brian Roberts. The free agent market also contains Robinson Cano, but more realistically it’s Nick Punto, Omar Infante, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago, Kelly Johnson, et al. We’ll all be watching the Hot Stove closely to see how the O’s address their needs at second base.