Mariners’ Dipoto: Cal Raleigh ready for MLB but opportunity hasn’t opened yet
The Mariners have a red-hot young prospect down in Triple-A Tacoma knocking on the MLB door, and it’s not the one you’re likely thinking of.
Yes, top prospect Jarred Kelenic has found his footing in Tacoma since his demotion after a tough start to his MLB career, but it’s his teammate, switch-hitting catcher Cal Raleigh, who has been one of baseball’s best minor league players in 2021.
What has Raleigh done so far this year? He’s just slashing .353/.405/.669 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 34 games for the Rainiers. He also recently had a 23-game hitting streak, and after a hitless outing snapped it, he’s had at least one hit in each of his last three games.
Raleigh, the Mariners’ third-round pick in 2018 and the team’s No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline, appears either ready for his MLB debut or very close to it. So when could we see him? And is there a chance that he gets called up to the Mariners before Kelenic returns to MLB?
“Whatever avenue is available to either (Raleigh or Kelenic) may be limited by what’s in front of them,” Dipoto said.
What that means, of course, is that the two players’ paths to the big leagues aren’t just dependent on their play, and that players currently on the Mariners’ roster have some say as far as whether there’s a spot for either Raleigh or Kelenic.
With Kelenic, it’s a little clearer of a path forward because there are three outfield spots on a daily basis. But for Raleigh, the Mariners have two catchers on the roster that Dipoto is pleased with, even if Raleigh is tearing up Triple-A pitching on a daily basis while also playing solid defense behind the plate.
“Right now, it’s impossible to say that Cal’s not ready for an opportunity in the big leagues. He catches, he throws, he’s been a leader and he has really just been raking since the first day,” Dipoto said. “That being said, since being recalled from Tacoma, Luis Torrens has been terrific, he’s done everything we have asked him to do, (including) hit for power. And really, very quietly since Tom Murphy got into a role that suits his skills much like he played in 2019, he’s put up an OPS somewhere in the neighborhood of .760, .780, where he’s primarily hitting against left-handed pitchers and managing our pitching staff.”
Since being recalled recently from Triple-A, Torrens is slashing .368/.400/.895 with three home runs and five RBIs in six games.
Murphy, meanwhile, is slashing .181/.253/.608 with six home runs and 15 RBIs this year, but he’s been much better of late after a slow start. Over his last 17 games (15 starts), Murphy is slashing .255/.344/.412 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
As Dipoto mentioned, Murphy is playing much better against lefties than righties, slashing .227/.311/.470 with four home runs off of southpaws compared to .139/.200/.250 against right-handers.
“That’s what Murph does well,” Dipoto said. “When the rest of our catchers were struggling early and Murph was asked to play more of an expanded role against right-hand pitchers, he was struggling.”
With Murphy and Torrens hitting well of late and Raleigh bullying minor-league arms, Dipoto thinks that the Mariners are in a good place when it comes to the organization’s high-level catching depth.
“We finally reached a place where our catchers are productive, so it’s hard to justify why one of them would need to go away, but Cal is making a convincing statement that he deserves his time as well,” he said. “So we’re going to be challenged to figure out how to balance that, but he’ll be in the big leagues this year. It’s a matter of when, not if.”
The Jerry Dipoto Show airs at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. You can hear this week’s episode in the podcast at this link or in the player below.