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Raúl Casanova

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Raúl Casanova

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Biographical Information[edit]

"You build ballclubs around guys like him. In my mind, he has made himself the top prospect in the organization. He's a switch-hitting catcher with power." - Tim Flannery, to Baseball Digest, 1995

Raúl Casanova is a catcher who played 9 seasons in the major leagues. Once heralded by Detroit Tigers GM Randy Smith as a franchise "cornerstone", one site said about him: "He has good gap power and occasionally pokes it out of the park. Defensively, Casanova is below average... Once a top prospect, now he's lucky to get a few at-bats a year in the majors." [1]

Raúl was drafted 220th overall, in the eighth round, of the 1990 amateur draft by the New York Mets. His professional career started that year, in 65 at-bats, he collected only five hits to hit .077. His 1991 season was almost just as bad: in 18 at-bats with the Kingsport Mets, he collected one hit to hit .056. In 32 games with the GCL Mets, he hit .243. His 1992 season was a definite improvement. In 137 at-bats with Kingsport, not only did he hit his first professional home run, but he also hit .270. He hit only .167 in 18 at-bats with the Columbia Mets in a late season call up. After the season, he was traded with Wally Whitehurst and D.J. Dozier to the San Diego Padres for Tony Fernandez. That trade might have saved his career. He spent the entirety of 1993 with the Waterloo Diamonds, hitting .256 with six home runs in 76 games. In 1994, he had the best season of his professional career. Playing for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, he hit .340, blasting 23 home runs and driving in 120 runs. Because of his outstanding performance, he was named the Padres Minor League Player of the Year and a California League All-Star. It would be nearly impossible to follow up a season like 1994 with an identical one the next year. In 1995, Casanova hit .271 with only 12 home runs with the Memphis Chicks in Double A. According to Baseball America, he was the 60th best prospect in baseball entering 1995. Yet, after the season, he was traded, with Richie Lewis and Melvin Nieves, to the Detroit Tigers for Sean Bergman, Todd Steverson and minor leaguer Cade Gaspar.

He started 1996 with a bang, hitting .333 in 30 at-bats with the Jacksonville Suns. That prompted his promotion to Triple A, where he hit .273 in 49 games. He made his big league debut with the Tigers on May 24th, at 23, going 0-for-4. He collected his first hit on May 27th off Tim Belcher of the Kansas City Royals. Two days later, in his next game, he hit his first career home run, a solo shot off Kevin Appier, also of the Royals. Overall, he played 25 games for the Tigers, hitting .188 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI. He accomplished a rare feat in 1996 - in one game, on June 6th against the Baltimore Orioles, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate. Casanova was the Tigers' main starting catcher in 1997, although Matt Walbeck also got a fair amount of playing time. In 101 games with Detroit, Raúl hit .243 with 5 home runs and 24 RBI. Of all the players on the team who appeared in over 100 games, he was the only one not to collect 40 or more RBI. He also spent some time in the minors, hitting .195 in 12 games with the Toledo Mud Hens. He started 1998 as the Tigers' starting catcher, but after collecting only two hits in his first 13 games, he was sent to Toledo. In 50 games with the Mud Hens, he hit .257. He was called back to the majors in July, but only played three more games in the bigs that season. Overall, he hit only .143 in 16 games with the Tigers, his season cut short by injury.

Casanova spent all of 1999 back in the minors. In two games with the GCL Tigers on a rehabilitation assignment, he collected four hits (including a home run) in five at bats (.800). Continuing his rehab with the Class A Advanced Lakeland Tigers, he hit .500 with another home run in 12 at bats. However, he really struggled in his regular assignment with Toledo, playing 44 games and hitting only .206. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Colorado Rockies. He was released before the beginning of the 2000 season and was picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers. Casanova, Henry Blanco and Tyler Houston all spent time catching in 2000. He hit .247 with 6 home runs (including two grand slams) and 36 RBI. He also hit .288 in 20 games with the Indianapolis Indians. He was the Brewers' main backup in 2001, behind Blanco. He had a career year, belting a career-high 11 home runs and hitting a career-high .260 in 71 games. Also, for the first time in his career, he did not spend any time in the minors. In contrast, 2002 was a bad season for Casanova. He started with the Brewers, but after hitting only .184 in 31 games he was released and quickly signed by the Baltimore Orioles. He only played two games with them, going 0-for-1. Overall, he hit .182 with 1 home run and 8 RBI. He spent 14 games with Indianapolis as well and hit .279.

Raúl played in five different farm systems between 2003 and 2005. He played for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and Ottawa Lynx in 2003, hitting .301 while with the Sky Sox in the Rockies' farm system, and .286 with the Lynx in the Orioles' farm system. Signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox in 2004, he hit .270 in 23 games with the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox before being sent to the Kansas City Royals as part of a conditional deal. In 58 games with the Omaha Royals, he hit an outstanding .323 with 10 home runs. Even after a great performance, Casanova was released and signed by the Chicago White Sox. He spent 70 games with the Triple A Charlotte Knights before getting called up to the bigs in the latter part of 2005. In 6 games with the White Sox, he was 1-for-5 (.200). A free agent once again, he signed with the Oakland Athletics and played a total of 8 minor league games in 2006, hitting .265 in 34 at bats. He spent time with three teams: two games with the Stockton Ports, two games with the Midland RockHounds and four games with the Sacramento River Cats.

In 2007, Casanova played with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He slammed 6 home runs in only 79 at bats, drove in 11 runs, and had a slugging percentage of .519. He began 2008 back with his first organization, the New York Mets, and hit .273 in 20 games, playing his last major league game on June 8th. He finished the year as a backup catcher with the New Orleans Zephyrs, hitting .295 in 44 games. He finished his professional career with a season in the Mexican League in 2009, where he hit .293 in 95 games for the Tigres de Quintana Roo and the Broncos de Reynosa. He played for Puerto Rico in the 2009 Baseball World Cup and was still active in winter ball in the 2010 Caribbean Series.

His career statistics are only marginally of major league caliber: 387 games, .236/.304/.379 with 35 home runs and 130 RBI. By similarity scores, he is most related to Jerry Moses, a catcher who did much of his damage nearly thirty years prior. He spent six seasons with Greg Keagle as a teammate - longer than any other teammate. At last check, Casanova lived in Miami.

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