ANAHEIM, Calif. — The transformation of Cal Raleigh from tentative minor leaguer to the Mariners’ cornerstone catcher could be measured in his stats, which now place him among the top of catchers in Major League Baseball.
It could be determined in the compliments from coaches and teammates, particularly pitchers, who respect him for his work ethic and preparation, putting their interests before his own.
For many in the Mariners organization, the real transformation in Raleigh starts with the way he carries himself on the field and off it. He speaks and acts with confidence while carrying himself as the Mariners primary catcher.
Whether it’s lecturing Matt Brash on the mound about throwing strikes or joking about his roommate, Logan Gilbert, being more entertaining than him in a mic’d up segment during Wednesday’s YouTube broadcast of the Mariners’ 11-7 win over the Angels.
“There is no way he was better than me,” Raleigh said with a smile, knowing full well that he came off looking a little awkward and shy. “I don’t believe it.”
Raleigh had every reason to smile after blasting a pair of homers in the Mariners win that completed a three-game sweep of their American League West rival.
“It’s cool and it’s special,” he said. “I’ve never done it up here. But I will move on and get ready for Oakland.”
Raleigh’s 18 homers are the most of any catcher in Major League Baseball. Perhaps more impressive, the 18 homers have come in 269 at-bats. Two of the catchers with 17 homers — Willson Contreras and Will Smith — have 100 more at-bats than Raleigh.
If he’d have been told during spring training that he’d be leading all catchers in homers in mid-August, would he have believed it?
“I don’t think I would have believed you,” he said. “I don’t think I would have believed you after the first couple weeks this season. I mean I’ve always had that belief in myself and I have a really good (support) system around me, people that care about me, people that helped me. Credit goes to them really, they’re the ones when I’m down, they believe in me.”
After starting nine games and going 2-for-24 with a homer, four walks and nine strikeouts in his first nine games, Raleigh was optioned to Tacoma.
The struggles and disappointment forced him to make some changes from a mental and preparation standpoint to go with changes to his swing and body.
“I don’t feel like I was a different player it’s just a different mindset,” he said. “I had a perspective change and kind of had to change some things with the way I going about my business.”
It’s not a coincidence that Seattle’s stunning stretch of success — 36-15 since June 19 — has come during Raleigh’s growth from a heralded catching prospect, who struggled initially at the MLB level, into one of the top catchers in MLB.
Coming into Wednesday, Raleigh has been worth 1.5 Wins Above Replacement since June 19, tied for highest on the team with Julio Rodriguez.
“This is a guy going through basically a rookie season,” Servais said. “And we’re seeing him emerge.”
- The three-game series sweep at Angel Stadium was Seattle’s first since Sept. 12-14, 2016.
- The Mariners have a 12-3-1 series record over their past 16 series. It’s their best 16-series stretch since their final 16 series of the 2001 season, where they went 15-1.