The Minor League season is just three games old, but Mike Zunino is already making headlines--and an impact. Through those three games, Mike is hitting an astounding .500/.526/1.375, with seven of his 8 hits being for extra bases -- 3 doubles, a triple, and a trio of dingers. He is certainly picking up right where he left off last year, and could be in for another massive year at the plate. He has already surpassed most expectations in terms of his power output, and that may continue.
Now, let me preface this real quick before people start typing comments about how it is much too early to make any conclusions. I completely and totally agree with that. In no way am I suggesting he will stay at, or even close to this level much longer. Nor should a call up be talked about this early.
For my purposes, Zunino is merely a puppet--well, maybe more than that--for this topic. The topic being how to know when a player is "ready" and what qualifies as rushing him. We're Zunino to be called up within his next 74 games, he would "beat" Buster Posey to the majors in terms of games played. I don't know this to be fact at this point, but I have heard that Posey has the record for quickest catcher to the majors, at least in this era. He spend 122 games in the minors before his original call up, then another 47 the following season.
Now, Zunino has definitely looked about as MLB ready as they come, but is he more advanced than Posey, who was widely regarded as a very tippy-top prospect? It's obviously hard for us fans to know something like that, and we will leave that for the scouts. But we can still give our opinions on the matter.
Ill start with some of the arguments from those who tend to err on the side of caution. The obvious one is worrying about rushing a player, which we have seen first hand that doing so can be detrimental. Brandon Morrow is an example, though there are obvious glaring differences between the two. Others may worry about how AAA success translate to the bigs. Guys like Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley impressed in AAA, but have since struggled. More time tends to eliminate any problems or unlikely splits that can exist in short samples.
I personally tend to agree with the points above, and always worry about rushing guys. If they are ready then they are ready, but often times it isn't that cut and dry.
As for the other side, most people will say that it can also be detrimental to leave the guy down when he is ready to go. Not only can it stunt his growth as a player, but it can hold back the team when they have a MLB ready player waiting in the wings to contribute. There is also the concern of losing some cheap control via the Super-Two status. That will likely also play a role as the organization will want to keep Zunino under cheap control for as long as possible*
As I said, in no way am I saying Zunino is ready to make the jump right now. But I thought it begged an interesting question about when a guy is "ready.", as well as the many different definitions that accompany that word in this context. If he keeps hitting at a high level though, and his defense is as good or better than people say, Mike Z could be up sooner rather than later.
PS: I wrote this on my phone while waiting in line to get into Safeco for the home opener, so try to excuse any grammatical errors or anything of the like. Go M's!
*Thanks to Kenneth Arthur for the reminder and for being less forgetful than me. Wow, duh Me. What are you doing?