The Mariners are building a solid stable of backstops in the organization. Both Arkansas Travelers' catchers, Jack Anchia and Matt Scheffler, are defensive stalwarts armed with cannons. Top prospect Harry Ford offers offensive upside, speed, and a developing defensive skill set. This week's spotlight is directly on the Modesto Nuts' Tatem Levins.
The catching tandem in Modesto is your typical rotation, with the starter, Freuddy Batista providing offense (.286/.346/.828) and Levins labeled as the more defensive of the two. Levins is having a fantastic year behind the plate throwing out 40% of would-be base stealers in his first season.
The Mariners drafted the 24-year-old from the University of Pittsburgh, where he starred in the box and behind the plate. He launched 16 homers his senior season and showed an ability to dominate the zone (33 BB to 31 SO). Before his time with the Panthers, he toiled in the Atlantic 10 league with La Salle. He also played summer ball every season, with his last two college summers in the Cape Cod League, which is a big box in the Mariners draft checklist. Ahead of the 2022 draft, Scouts and draft experts identified a player with room to grow defensively and a solid skill set offensively, including good bat-to-ball skills. From Future Stars Series, Joe Doyle highlighted his offensive approach as a "smooth left-handed swing with loft, pull-side pop, and good contact rates." These attributes make Levins one of the more well-rounded backstops in the system.
The former 8th-round pick is having a great year offensively, as evidenced by his solid .257/.340/.783 slash line. He's currently running a 108 wRC+ which is above league average. Additionally, Levins is dominating the zone in the California League, walking at a high rate (11.5%) and striking out below league average (22.0%). The offensive profile of a high on-base catcher is hard to find; that's why scouts rate Harry Ford so highly. There is a chance Levins follows that path but trades in more strikeouts for power.
Levins is bouncing between catching and designated hitter duties for the Modesto Nuts. However, please don't sleep on him offering more positional versatility as he rises through the Mariners' farm system. He played a handful of games at first base last season for the Arizona Complex League Mariners. That will serve him well as he is behind Cal Raleigh and Harry Ford when you envision the future of catching in Seattle. His offensive development will get him to the show, and his versatility and defense will keep him there. For comparison's sake, Levins is probably Tom Murphy.
Having a guy who can play the Tom Murphy role on your 26-man roster is valuable; just ask Scott Servais.