For the past couple of seasons, Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh has been heralded as the “catcher of the future” in Seattle. After hammering 29 home runs between High A and AA in 2019, then raking at AAA Tacoma to start this season (.324 batting average with 9 home runs and 36 RBIs), Raleigh was finally given his call to the big leagues on July 11th.
Known as an excellent defensive catcher, the uptick in his offensive production while in the minors was an encouraging bonus. However, since his mid-July call-up, Raleigh has posted a .175 BA, a dreadful .219 OBP, and just one home run in 120 at-bats. This below-average production is typical for a rookie, but it’s worth noting that Raleigh will likely need to make some adjustments this offseason in order to keep his spot on the team moving forward.
Cal Raleigh is still considered the answer at catcher for the Mariners for the next few years, but a hot-hitting catcher-in-training, an upcoming free agent catcher, and a rising prospect in the Mariners system could all jeopardize his future.
Luis Torrens, the Mariners’ primary DH over the second half of this season, has shown some serious promise at the plate, as he’s hit .382 over the first half of September. However, Torrens was a legitimate liability at catcher before proving that his bat could play as an everyday DH. Torrens is only 25, though, and still has plenty of time to continue developing his defensive game.
If the Mariners want to look outside the organization, the top catcher in the upcoming free agent class is the Oakland Athletics’ Yan Gomes; Gomes, a World Series champion with the Washington Nationals in 2019, put up a .271 BA with 9 HRs and 35 RBIs this season before being traded from the Nats to the A’s. If the M’s are interested in an immediate upgrade at catcher next year, perhaps while Raleigh develops in Tacoma, Gomes could be an effective and affordable option.
Finally, this year’s first-round pick, Harry Ford, is a talent that mustn’t be overlooked. Ford has the athleticism to transition to the corner infield or the outfield as his young career blossoms, but if Raleigh continues to struggle, Mariners management will surely keep Ford primarily at catcher in the minors. First-round picks typically have the talent to rapidly rise through the minors, so Ford could come knocking at the door sooner rather than later.
Cal Raleigh may have the keys to the Mariners’ revolving door at catcher for now, but Seattle is ready to compete; he’ll need to show that he can positively contribute to a contending team over the final few weeks of this season if he hopes to begin next year as the starter behind the plate.