Coming Soon to A Stadium Near You: Mike Zunino of the Seattle Mariners

Otto Greule Jr

Jason Hunt takes a look at a catching prospect who could arrive in the Majors as soon as next season, the Mariners' Mike Zunino.

As part of our comprehensive look at the catcher position heading into the 2013 fantasy season, Craig Goldstein and I are taking a closer look at two catching prospects and how to value them in fantasy. This is to give you a better idea of two of the players listed on our 2013 Fantasy Catching Prospects Rankings. Today's subject is Seattle Mariners' top draft pick Mike Zunino.

The Basics

Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6’2"
Weight: 220 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: No
Age as of 4/1/13: 22

His History

Zunino was drafted by the Mariners with the #3 overall pick this year out of the University of Florida. He won the Golden Spikes Award in 2012 as the best collegiate player, and signed with the Mariners for a $4 million signing bonus. Zunino absolutely destroyed college pitching, hitting 19 home runs in each of his last two seasons and posting OPS over 1000 in each of them. He didn’t stop once he signed either, hitting 13 home runs with a .360/.447/.689 slash line between two levels of the minors, and reached AA before the end of the year.

What’s Stopping Him From Contributing Now?

To be honest, I think he probably just needs more at bats to help with his development. It seems like the biggest thing he can work on is getting used to the grind of 162 games, and a full season in the minors probably wouldn’t hurt that. As with most catching prospects, he could probably use some further development behind the plate, but it doesn’t sounds like he needs a ton. Overall, it sounds like there aren’t a ton of holes in his game right now.

What Could He Do For Fantasy Owners When He Gets There?

We ranked Zunino as our #2 fantasy catching prospect this year, in large part due to the fact that he should provide both solid power and a solid batting average, with the potential to provide even more as time progresses. We could very easily be looking at a top 10 catcher shortly after he arrives, with the upside to potentially break into the top 5 down the road. He has also shown at least a reasonable ability to take a walk, drawing 23 in 190 plate appearances this year. Based on the reports I have read, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for him to hit .280 with 20+ home runs, even in Seattle.

When Could He Arrive?

Realistically, Zunino has a very outside shot at winning the starting job for the Mariners out of Spring Training. However, with a team that is not likely to be competitive, it is hard to see the team giving him a substantial amount of time in the 2013 season in the Majors due to cost concerns. More likely, I think we see Zunino eased in toward the end of the season, with a very good chance to be the starter on Opening Day 2014. He will likely return to AA to start the season, but I would not be surprised if he was in AAA by the All Star break.

Conclusions

Zunino is an absolute must target for fantasy owners in minor league drafts, as he could be a long-term answer at catcher for nearly all dynasty formats. He is one of those prospects where the ceiling potentially is very high, but the floor also looks to be very high. His path to the Majors should be fairly quick, and there isn't a catcher in the Mariners' system right now that would hold him back once he is ready for the Majors. Add in that he plays a position not known for the offense it provides, and the practical guarantee that he will stay there in the long-term, and there is a ton to like here.

Source Material

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Minor League Central
The Baseball Cube

You can follow me on Twitter @jasonsbaseball

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