Mariners’ Dipoto breaks down what led to Cal Raleigh’s emergence

Sep 8, 2022, 11:12 AM
Mariners Cal Raleigh...
Cal Raleigh of the Mariners reacts after hitting a two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox at T-Mobile Park on September 06, 2022. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

There have been a number of very promising developments for the Mariners this season as they’re on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

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There’s been the performance of star rookie Julio Rodríguez, who appears to be on his way to the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Young right-handed starters Logan Gilbert and George Kirby have shined for Seattle this year, as well. And after a slow start, the Mariners’ bullpen has again been one of the league’s best.

Then there’s the development of catcher Cal Raleigh, who has gone from being demoted to Triple-A in late April to one of the game’s best two-way catchers.

In 102 games this season, Raleigh has slashed .210/.283/.492 with 23 home runs and 54 RBIs. Those 23 home runs are the most in the big leagues among catchers and tied for second-most among Mariners players. Additionally, 22 of Raleigh’s home runs have come since May 15.

The surge at the plate has come not only at a good time for the Mariners as the team has struggled at times to score runs this season, but in addition to Raleigh being a top defender at his position, throwing out 23 runners attempting to steal, good for a 34% clip (league average this season is 31%).

Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto explained what he is seeing from his young catcher to Brock and Salk during the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM on Thursday.

“What you’re watching is Cal… take a walk, hit the ball out of the ballpark, really manage a game well, stick with your pitchers, and he’s a good receiver,” Dipoto said. “And right now, I think he’s among the best throwing catchers in the league, and that’s something of a really refreshing development. He has always been good at it but right now he’s elite in that area.”

Simply put, Dipoto and the Mariners could see this kind of breakout coming.

“This is not a surprise to us. This is kind of who Cal has been since he entered our system,” he said of the 2018 third-round MLB Draft pick. “He was very advanced when he stepped on the field out of Florida State and he’s done nothing but continue to get better. And through his development, if you look at his track record, he has always been the slugging catcher.”

While a lot of the focus with Raleigh is on what he’s doing at the plate, Dipoto stressed that what he’s doing behind the dish is extremely promising and important.

“His leadership behind the plate, his attentiveness to a game plan,” Dipoto said. “I think that right now, his awareness of the lineup that we are managing against in a given game is as good as any veteran catcher in the league, and he’s doing it with just over a year of service in the big leagues, which I think is a testament to how well Cal knows the league.”

What has allowed Raleigh to emerge as a true two-way catcher? Dipoto said it starts with a very high baseball IQ, the product of him growing up around the game as the son of Todd Raleigh, a former college baseball head coach at both Western Carolina (2000-07) and Tennessee (2008-11).

“That’s where Cal separates himself immediately. And when you sit down and watch Cal, when you meet him, when you talk to him, it’s not hard to I guess run it back to that he was raised by a baseball coach. Cal’s dad is a coach, you can see it in the way Cal approaches the game,” Dipoto said. “He’s always had an old school way about him that really is inviting to teammates.”

Raleigh’s approach at the plate is pretty pull-heavy, Dipoto said, but he’s made major strides in one key area.

“Maybe the biggest development for Cal has been the strike zone management,” Dipoto said. “It’s something he did relatively well in the minor leagues, but he’s still going to run a strikeout rate like he will now. What got him when he first came to the big leagues was chase. He was chasing in too many different zones to be able to maximize his offensive skill set. And right now, he calmed himself, he got himself in a good place like he would have been in (Single-A) Modesto or in (Double-A) Arkansas. He’s just calm in the box, he manages the strike zone, he’s a much better two-strike hitter.”

He’s also done better on breaking balls in the strike zone, Dipoto said.

“Like you saw with his latest home run, that strike breaking ball which used to be a little bit of a kryptonite, to now, he’s on it and he’s hitting it out of the ballpark,” he said. “He’s not just hitting it.”

Listen to the latest Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

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