Called up to a decent amount of fanfare among baseball nerds, catcher Mike Zunino played in 52 games. At just 22 years old, Zunino took some of his lumps at the big league level, batting just .214/.290/.329 with five home runs and 14 RBI.
The Mariners recently signed veteran catcher John Buck, but Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners plan to enter camp with Zunino as the starter and Buck as the back-up:
Rookie Mike Zunino will enter the spring as the team’s starting catcher, with veteran John Buck serving as his backup. Zunino was drafted in 2012 out of Florida and was called up midway during last season.
There is always more learning on the job for catchers, and especially one called up as quickly as Zunino. It appears that the Mariners are trying to balance the immediacy of the moment (Robinson Cano, anybody) with the fact that they are still far from being a contender. Allowing Zunino to develop as he goes at the big league level is certainly a strategy that falls more in the latter.
That’s not to say that the former first round pick can’t click this season. Check out the scouting report on him from Andrew Orlebeke at Grading on the Curve when Zunino was drafted:
Offensively, the Gator backstop is a complete hitter, with the capacity to drive the ball to all fields (check out this shot to right center) and the ability to hit for power and average. His swing is clean, simple and easily repeatable. Though by no means a liability defensively, it is at the plate rather than behind it where Zunino will be the Mariners’ biggest asset.”
The Mariners need to find some way to lengthen their lineup behind Cano. Perhaps a breakthrough from a guy like Zunino will be the ticket.