The Mariners had a couple of problem positions all year. Catcher was one of them, and many fans thought that the answer to that particular problem lay in AAA with Cal Raleigh. Mariners fans were clamoring for him throughout the early part of the season, despair reigning over them whenever they saw Tom Murphy, Jose Godoy, or Luis Torrens taking a trot with the gear.
That’s why he is next up in our offseason report cards for the Mariners and is given the nod so early in the series. Plenty of fans soured on Cal Raleigh and did so quite soon during his time in the majors. From “when are we finally going to see him” to “send this bum down, we need a replacement”, and it seemed to happen within 40-50 ABs.
Cal Raleigh’s grade is in, and the Mariners backstop earns a decent one
Raleigh is just 24, and this was his debut season. Shoot, he barely cleared the Rookie jump for ABs (139 over the 130 cutoff), although his time on the roster was well past the 45-day mark. Not only that, he was being called up to replace/take time from Torrens, Murphy, and Godoy.
Torrens isn’t a catcher at the MLB level (that bat plays 100% though, just elsewhere), Murphy can’t seem to hang onto a ball that comes from anyone other than the pitcher OR hit, and Godoy hit .162/.225/.189 while going 0-6 on SB attempts by other runners.
The bar for Raleigh was to play defense, work with the staff decently, and provide similar offense to what the Mariners already had. Which he did amicably.
I understand that he hit just .180/.223/.309. His strikeout rate was 35%. I think all fans need to take a breath, sit for a minute, and remember that Cal Raleigh is a rookie catcher. It’s the hardest position to jump into in baseball at the big league level.
Did he dominate or earn an “A” grade? No, of course not, and you won’t hear that argument from me (nor should you from anyone). He did play decent though, and that’s all we should have expected from the youngster.
He showed signs of improvement over the last few weeks as well, which could be a nice stepping stone or marker to remember for the start of next season. Over his last 11 games, he hit .267/.290/.533. He definitely needs to work on plate discipline, but he was showing an improved hit tool over those last 3 weeks.
Please don’t go around telling people that the Mariners need a new catcher. Raleigh has just 139 ABs with the team, which amounts to about 1/3rd of a season for a catcher. He did just fine, and I see no reason why he wouldn’t improve with a full offseason of major league prep, communication, workouts, and film study.
That’s why I think things are going to be just fine for the Mariners backstop, and for the team in general at the catcher position. When it comes down to it, Raleigh did just enough for the team, and fans should be happy enough with what they got. Sure, we all want him to hit .255/330 with big pop, a strong arm, and command behind the plate. It’s unrealistic to expect that from a rookie, especially when catchers only average .228/.304.