Top prospect earning his title
The minor league season is only a few games-young, but even so it’s impossible to ignore what Mike Zunino is doing down at Triple A Tacoma.
It always seemed like a fact that Zunino would make his Mariner debut at some point this season. The real question was when. Would it be a mid-season call up in June, or a September cup of coffee?
I will admit I originally planned for the latter, but now I’m second guessing myself.
In four games (19 at bats) Zunino is hitting .500/.526/1.375 with three home runs, 12 RBI and 22 total bases for the Rainiers. Of his eight hits, seven have been for extra bases.
Turns out the 2012 MLB draft’s most polished college player truly was the draft’s most polished college player. Given his torrid start, he could be the first prospect from that draft class to make their MLB debut.
Of course, it is still early and expectations need to be tempered. Zunino is off to a hot start, but it hasn’t exactly been against “elite” competition.
The best starter Tacoma has faced so far was Fresno’s Michael Kickham—a top prospect in the San Francisco Giant’s organization—and Zunino didn’t even play in that game.
For all we know, Zunino is about to hit a slump or could get injured. Even though the start has been incredibly impressive, to talk about a call up now is a tad bit premature.
Another thing to consider is logistics.
Zunino is a catcher, and a much better one than Jesus Montero. That means any Zunino call up would have to coincide with a permanent move of Montero to DH—something Seattle was gun-shy about last season, despite how well John Jaso was playing.
If those two moves happened, then the Mariners are faced with figuring out what to do with Kendrys Morales—who has served mainly as the team’s DH. Given how well he’s played, he would make a move to his natural position of first base.
Which in turn displaces Justin Smoak. See how complicated this gets?
That’s why it makes sense that Seattle would wait on a call up of Zunino until further into the season. Once players have a time to flush out their stats, the Mariners can decide who stays and who goes in the long-run.
The odd man out (*cough* Justin Smoak *cough*) would either be released or traded. If Seattle wants to trade said player, the team would most likely wait until at least late-May or early-June, which is when things go in motion leading up the July trade deadline.
If by that time Zunino is still destroying Triple A pitching—which I suspect he will be—it’s very likely Seattle makes the transition.
The thing to remember is that these things are hard to predict. Buster Posey hit .349 with 21 extra base hits in 47 Triple A games before the Giants called him up in 2010. And Bryce Harper had a .690 OPS at Triple A last year, but it only took 21 games before he was in a National’s uniform.
For now, just remember the things that count. Seattle just won it’s home opener, the team is at .500 and playing well and the organization’s top prospects look great in the early goings.
Time to sit back, relax and let the season play out.
Last Call (Tuesday Night)
Mike Zunino grand slam. Rainiers up 9-4. The kid has serious power.
— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) April 10, 2013