What the Mariners like about Mike Zunino
By Jacob Thorpe
Special to 710Sports.com
With the third overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft the Mariners drafted Mike Zunino, a catcher out of the University of Florida. An uncontroversial, “safe” pick, Zunino was widely regarded as one of the top bats in the draft, and at a position where it’s tough to find decent hitters.
Despite his status as the third pick in the draft, Zunino isn’t expected to contend for any major batting awards or even a golden glove. He’s above average at everything but exceptional at nothing.
And that’s OK.
Zunino’s value comes from the fact that his defense is good enough that he can remain a catcher in the major leagues, and his bat is good enough to make him one of the best.
“You think about that position, it’s very difficult to fill it as we all know and everyone in baseball knows,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told reporters following the pick. “I think we have a kid that has this type of pedigree, leadership skills, as well as the chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
In 2011, only five major league catchers hit .270 or better, and only two of them were in the American League. If Zunino can become a hitter at a position known for defensive specialists, it would be quite a bonus for a team that has been plagued by offensive struggles for years.
“We like this kid’s overall game,” Zduriencik said. “He’s a big strong kid [6-feet-2 and 215 pounds], he’s a very powerful kid. He’s a good receiver, got a quick release and he has power. As we continue to build this thing, catching is always the most difficult position to find and in the amateur scouting area it’s very difficult.”
Still, the Mariners already have a young, power-hitting catcher on the roster in Jesus Montero, who has the third-highest slugging percentage on the team. But the Marines didn’t let that stop them from taking the best player available, and with injuries, trades, or position changes always possible, adding a young talent at a hard-to-find position isn’t the worst idea.
“We’ll see what happens as we move forward, you never have enough catchers,” Zduriencik said. “As we know you go through the course of the year, and fortunately in our league you have the [designated hitter]. As you move forward, things happen. If you like a player you take him and let it fall into place.”