Raleigh's power potential excites Mariners

February 26th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Switch-hitting catchers who possess 30-plus-homer potential don’t grow on trees, but there is one emerging from the Mariners’ farm system. And offered a reminder to his power potential during live batting practice at Spring Training on Friday.

Raleigh pulled a long homer to left field against Mariners starter James Paxton, providing a public glimpse to what the club has been alluding to since last year, when Raleigh’s development was exclusively behind the scenes after the Minor League season was cancelled.

The last time Raleigh was playing in professional games, the Mariners’ No. 8 prospect led all Minor League catchers with 29 home runs. That was in 2019, when he ascended his way to Double-A Arkansas in a little more than one year after the club selected him with its third-round pick in ’18. That quick development made Raleigh a logical selection for Seattle’s alternate training site in ’20, and to further make up for lost time, he took part in the club’s Arizona instructional development league immediately after last fall.

“That was something that was important to me, going and getting at-bats and making up for lost time and getting those reps,” Raleigh said. “And that's something that is important to not only the Mariners, but to me, and to just try to stay ready. My goal is to make the big leagues, and I know that’s going to help me.”

The offseason also allowed Raleigh the time to finish his degree at Florida State, where he graduated with a degree in business entrepreneurship.

Raleigh enters Spring Training as essentially the Mariners’ third-string catcher behind Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens. He has a strong shot at debuting in 2021, particularly since Seattle has said it anticipates a more even split among duties due to the demands of the position. One nick here or there among the starters would turn him from prospect into contributor.

But the likelihood is that Raleigh, who has never taken at-bats above Double-A, will begin the season at Triple-A Tacoma. In 2019, which also included a stop at Class A Advanced Modesto, Raleigh hit .251/.323/.497 with 82 RBIs, 116 strikeouts and 47 walks in 507 plate appearances across 121 games.

“He probably needs a little bit more seasoning, like we've talked about, at the Minor League level,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “But he's getting an opportunity to play in a lot of these games as he's slid up the depth chart. So, we get a chance to see where he's at in his development.”

Specifically, there are parts of the strike zone -- and a more robust understanding of the zone in general -- that Raleigh is still polishing as he enters his third professional season. He would like to be more than just a power-only threat, even though the power is probably strong enough as it stands to play in the big leagues.

Beyond his bat, the Mariners’ scouting department is bullish on Raleigh’s improvements behind the plate, suggesting that his ability to execute a gameplan and guide the young pitching staff at the alternate site was far improved than when they drafted him. Raleigh hails from a baseball family -- his uncle, Matt, played nine seasons in the Minors, and his father, Todd, was a collegiate coach -- so he’s essentially had a bat in his hand since he could walk. And he played at FSU for Mike Martin, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history, for any sport, all of which helped bolster his baseball acumen early.

Having him rise through the ranks with the rest of their young arms would be a benefit to the Mariners’ long-term team chemistry. After he homered off Paxton, Raleigh caught Justin Dunn’s live batting practice on Thursday. He’s also grown particularly close with top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert.

“We do feel like Cal is also a really bright part of our future,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “And it's exciting to talk about catching depth in a positive way. And it's something we feel like we've done a decent job in building with this group.”

“Obviously, first week, everybody's just getting back into it, getting the rust off,” Raleigh said of his first few days of camp, and where he’s at in his development. “But I feel really good. I feel good catching the guys. I feel good in the box right now. I feel like I'm ready to go. But you know, [my big league debut] is up to the coaches, the coaching staff. So, I just go out there and play hard and, you know, hopefully good things happen.”