With the first overall pick today, thewere supposed to select Mark Appel. They switched things up and went with Carlos Correa instead. This was reason enough to declare that mock drafts are a complete waste of time.
With the third overall pick today, thewere supposed to select Mike Zunino. They went with Mike Zunino. So I guess you could say that mock drafts also have their place.
A year ago, the Mariners caught everyone off guard by selecting Danny Hultzen, but one year doesn't make a pattern, and today the Mariners did more or less what was expected of them. People hoped that Byron Buxton would fall one more slot, but he went to the at number two, so the Mariners opted for the power-hitting catcher over the assortment of pitchers they could've chosen if they wanted to drive people irrationally insane. A pitcher might've worked just fine, but instead we will hope a catcher works just fine.
Here are the Zunino vitals:
- 21 years old
- 6'2, 220 according to the University of Florida
- has played at the University of Florida
Back in 2009, the Oakland A's drafted Zunino in the 29th round out of high school. Zunino very obviously didn't sign. There are two angles here. One: yeah, way to stick it to the Oakland A's! Two: the name of Zunino's high school was Mariner High School, in Cape Coral, FL. I don't believe in destiny but there are reasons some people believe in destiny.
So, let's talk about the skillset. In the draft, you'll see a lot of people selected who play specialty positions. Zunino's a catcher, but unlike a lot of catchers who'll be picked, Zunino's expected by many to stick. He doesn't have, say, whatever questions plagued and still plague Jesus Montero. The popular comparison is Jason Varitek and Zunino can supposedly field his position and handle a pitching staff and serve as a leader. Team captain material, basically, if team captains were a regular thing in baseball. All the words about Zunino as a backstop are either positive or neutral, so all that could stop him are injuries, bad luck, mysterious decline, or the revelation that he was mis-evaluated this whole time. So, you know, the normal stuff. Zunino could one day be a catcher in the Major Leagues! He is 21 years old and hasn't even signed a contract.
As for the offensive part of Zunino's game, there's some stuff to write about here, too. He posted the second-highest OPS in the SEC. A year ago, he posted the second-highest OPS in the SEC. CollegeSplits.com is a neat little website and I don't know about their park and schedule adjustments, but if you apply their park and schedule adjustments, this past season Zunino posted the fourth-best adjusted OPS in the country. For a guy who isn't thought of as an offensive standout, he's posted the numbers of an offensive standout.
Of course, these are college statistics, and the further you get from the Major Leagues, the more you have to rely on scouting. The scouting suggests that Zunino could and should hit for power, even if he falls short of being terrific across the board. For whatever stock you put in these things, Zunino hasn't drawn an eye-popping number of walks, or posted a microscopic number of strikeouts. He is not perfect, and while his numbers have been fantastic in a new, more pitcher-friendly college environment, he's not a guy who's supposed to generate four-digit OPS figures as a professional.
I've seen it mentioned that Zunino failed to improve between 2011 and 2012. His isolated slugging percentage did go up, we can't really speak to any defensive improvements, and Zunino achieved a very high level of performance in 2011. Sure, it would've been great if Zunino took another giant step forward. It's very encouraging that he didn't take a step back. Now we have two years of evidence that Zunino was among college baseball's very best position players.
Because Zunino is a collegiate catcher, Mariners fans won't be able to shake thoughts of Jeff Clement from their minds. Clement is one of the team's great disappointments, and sure enough, Zunino could follow that path and burn out. But Zunino could follow any path, and he and Clement don't have anything to do with one another. Just because your brain might make immediate associations doesn't mean any meaningful associations exist. Zunino could become good, okay, bad, or nothing. He could fall dreadfully ill tomorrow. He could discover that he lives on a valuable plot of land, sell it, and retire. Zunino was just drafted by the Mariners out of college, and in keeping with the earlier imagery, he's just now arriving at the trailhead. From here he gets to try to sign a contract, and then he gets to try to be good.
By picking Zunino, the Mariners didn't go controversial. Some wanted Buxton, but Buxton wasn't there. Some wanted Correa, but Correa wasn't there. Some might've wanted other guys, but no one stood out from the pool from which the Mariners were selecting, so this isn't even one of those situations where we just have to put our trust in the Mariners' scouting department. I mean, we should put our trust in the Mariners' scouting department, but odds are most of us would've made the same pick. So now it's time to put our trust in the Mariners' player development. That's a whole other story. But also while keeping our trust in the Mariners' scouting department. I guess we have a potentially bottomless supply of trust.
Welcome to the Mariners, Mike Zunino, sort of. Sign a contract and don't be Rob Johnson or Jeff Clement. People want to like you. Let them do it.