Casilla Still Has Plenty To Prove

I can’t get enough Minnesota Twins baseball, especially this time of year when football season is winding down. Pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks, which seems hard to believe when you take a look outside and still see four feet of snow on the ground in these parts.

In all likelihood, Alexi Casilla will be handed a starting job. But has he really earned it? Associated Press photo

Before going into work today, I went through the transcript of a live chat that Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune had with fans yesterday. The topic that came up the most was the middle infield situation, notably the Twins’ decision to hand a starting job to Alexi Casilla, and likely at shortstop, no less.

Christensen told one of those questioning the decision that if the Twins aren’t going to give Casilla a chance, then when will they? Fair point. But that’s assuming you can convince most fans that he deserves an opportunity to not just compete for a starting job, but be handed one outright. There really isn’t anyone in camp, as things stand right now anyway, that could possibly wrest that job from him.

What separates competitive teams from the also-rans is the handing out of starting jobs to players that simply don’t deserve it. Great teams make players earn those jobs by taking advantage of injuries or the struggles of the players in front of them on the depth chart.

This puts the Twins in a tough position in that Casilla has collected nearly 1,000 at-bats at the big league level and hasn’t done a whole lot with those at-bats. And paired in the middle infield with Tsuyoshi Nishioka – who won a batting title in Japan but is transitioning to the big leagues now – creates a pretty unstable but important tandem.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Twins consider picking up a cheap leftover free agent like Orlando Cabrera to at least give them some depth here. I know manager Ron Gardenhire wants speed, but as the saying goes, “You can’t steal first base.”

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