Let's get one thing straight - Alexi Casilla was not the Twins biggest problem. He might not have been in the top five. In fact, I'm quite sure he's not in the top five, because the top four are all starting pitchers and the next couple can be found in the bullpen. But I'm not here to talk about those problems.
Though I will justify that statement. The Twins starters' ERA this year is 5.32 which ranks 25th in the majors. They're a little bit better in quality starts, with eleven. That ties them at 17th, along with five other teams, which means they're also tied for 21st. That's as many as Cleveland, whose rotation has been a punchline. It's only one more than Detroit, and it's less than Kansas City or the White Sox.
And I'll also say that I was totally wrong about Casilla this year. I've trumpeted Casilla for years, and I viewed his quiet and workmanlike spring training as a sign of a breakout year, and for the first couple of games, I was right. But he's been terrible, both offensively and defensively, for a few weeks.
Nationally, people are wondering if Casilla is still the second baseman of the future for this team, and I still think he is. Matt Tolbert just turned 27 years old, Brendan Harris is 28, and Casilla is just 24. It's still pretty clear where the upside lies in this equation.
That doesn't mean Casilla will be a factor this year, or even be in a position to control his own destiny. If he tears up AAA for a while, he could displace Harris, because after a year-and-a-half I think we can conclude that Harris is always going to be a defensive liability at second base. But he and Tolbert bring the same skill set to the Twins roster, and if Tolbert hits consistently, Harris and Casilla might end up waiting their turn for some time.
The whole scenario is reminiscent of the Carlos Gomez/Denard Span soap opera from last year. Speaking of which, I wouldn't be shocked if we see a similar swap soon in the outfield. The only thing saving Gomez now is his defensive value, but Dustin Martin or Jason Pridie can replace Delmon Young late in games too. They don't bring Gomez's glove, but it would give him a chance to see some regular plate appearances and become more than a fourth outfielder.
Pop Quiz Hot Shot: Since April 22nd (two weeks ago) how many at-bats has Gomez had?
Answer: Nine. In twelve games. I know he missed two games because he had his first kid, but that's ridiculous.
The Gomez move should be made for the same reason that the Casilla move was made - to help him become a productive major leaguer as soon as possible. Casilla has shown a tremendous amount of potention to be a top-of-the-lineup fixture as a 22-year-old and 23-year-old in AAA. Over two shortened years there, he's sported a .348 OBP, and drew 52 walks versus 68 strikeouts. He's also stolen bases at every level, including his introduction to the majors when he stole 11 bases in 189 at-bats.
His minor league history suggest he can be a capable lead-off guy and a great complimentary #2 batter, and now he'll get to add to it. Meanwhile, Tolbert has sported similar offensive numbers in AAA, except without the speed. He'll get to try and prove that his time with the club last year, his promotion this year, and Ron Gardenhire's apparent man-crush on him, are all justified. There's a decent chance he will.