Three, possibly four, Mariners catchers with only one spot on the field.
Powered by a young stud, a veteran, and a mountain man escaped from the woods, the Seattle Mariners have acquired a position of strength in Seattle—and the most powerful of the bunch may be developing in the minor leagues.
At 3:10 AM PST, the Mariners opened the season in Japan with returning starting catcher Miguel Olivo behind the plate back in March.
A position that was in doubt for Olivo a year after leading the team in HR’s, because of the addition of Jesus Montero. The prized prospect did start at DH that day, while the mountain man, John Jaso, did not become a folk hero until the team’s return to the states.
What should the Mariners do with these three interchangeable options? To make matters even more ridiculous, the M’s drafted Mike Zunino in the first round, and he has done nothing but hit since signing with Seattle. Below is the case for the four of them:
Let’s start with Montero because no matter how slow he is on the base paths, this man isn’t going anywhere. Signed through 2018 (and not arbitration eligible until 2015), Montero led the M’s in batting average playing primarily DH, while catching occasionally.
His 15 HR’s were lower than expected, but with the movement of the Safeco Field left field walls—and another year of major league comfort—expect his offensive numbers to increase.
The scouts’ worries of Jesus Montero were based on his defensive abilities. Numbers on this were hard to accumulate, but watching him throughout the season I never felt his inability to throw out the stealing base runner was overwhelming.
Verdict: Montero may not be the catcher for 2013 and beyond, but his bat will be in the offense at DH and backing up the starting catcher every day for years to come.
Struggling with injuries happens to every catcher throughout their career. This is one reason the Mariners will consider bringing in all four catchers come Spring Training next season.
Miguel Olivo only played in 87 games this season because of quality play from Montero and Jaso, as well as poor production from his bat.
Mariner fans expected a hot streak that never came this season from Olivo, who finished with 29 RBI’s and a .222 batting average.
Verdict: At 34, his power is fading, defensive ability decreasing and time in Seattle is up. The M’s should decline the team option for 2013 and move on.
Not sure what is bigger, Jaso’s legend or his beard. It seemed like whenever the Mariners needed a big hit late in the game, Jaso was the one called on by manager Eric Wedge.
His role was limited compared to full time catchers, but John Jaso filled his role perfectly. In 361 PA, Jaso hit .276 with 10 HR’s and 50 RBI’s. Jaso had 6 game-winning RBI’s this season and brought more cheers to Safeco Field than any Mariner not named Felix.
Verdict: Take advantage of a popular player, give him a two-year deal to stay in Seattle and avoid arbitration. Start him at catcher half the time and use him a pitch-hitter behind Montero.
Zunino is a man. In 44 games between single and double A, Zunino hit .360 with 13 HR’s and 43 RBI. The man missed an RBI per game pace by one RBI!
There is no predicting a Mike Trout-type addition next year, but his play will add a lift to the hitting of next season’s Mariners.
Verdict: Teach this man to play 1B, spend some time in Tacoma refining the defensive skills needed, and then bring him in to Safeco in June to replace the anemic first basemen in Seattle. Expect to see Zunino at some point in 2013 at first or behind the plate.