The Seattle Mariners are making a big mistake in promoting their top prospect, catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino, 22, was the third pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and is the first of his class to be promoted to Triple-A and the third member of his draft class to reach the Majors. However, Zunino has struggled with Tacoma hitting just .238/.303/.503 while striking out 59 times in 185 at-bats. He has hit 11 home runs and driven in 43 runs but his strikeout rate, almost 29 percent of his at-bats, is a bit alarming.
Zunino was ranked 23rd in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects and he ranks among the best catching prospects in the game. However, the Mariners look a little desperate here in promoting Zunino before he is ready to handle Major League pitching.
Recently, the Mariners demoted catcher Jesus Montero to Triple-A to work on some things after Montero struggled offensively, hitting just .208/.264/.327 in 101 at-bats. Zunino is much better defensively behind the plate than Montero but that isn’t saying much.
This move is a desperation move by the Mariners hierarchy of GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge who are both entering the last year of their contracts. Basically, Zduriencik is gambling with Zunino’s development to save his job. The Mariners have to show some improvement to save Wedge’s job and, most likely, Zduriencik’s job.
The Mariners have seen their fair share of top prospects come to the Majors only to fall well short of expectations. Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak have all stugled in the Majors. Smoak and Montero were the key pieces that came back in trades that sent Cliff Lee and Michael Pineda out of town. Both look like potential busts and have put Zduriencik on the hot seat.
Rushing players to the Majors is the sign of a franchise that is grasping at straws. There is no reason to promote Zunino until he is ready except to save jobs. That is one surefire sign of a franchise that is in disarray and is in need of a regime change. There is plenty of young talent on the Mariners roster and in the Minor Leagues. For the most part, that talent hasn’t lived up to expectations and the shuffling of youngsters from Tacoma to Seattle and back again is a dead giveaway that Seattle’s leadership is grasping at straws.