Mike and I will give our take as the Mariners make picks.
No. 3: Mike Zunino, Catcher, University of Florida
I’m not against the pick of Mike Zunino philosophically, I just don’t think it is an efficient use of resources. The Mariners have Jack Marder, John Hicks, and Tyler Marlette in their farm system. Hicks and Marder are guys who are hitting well right now, and Marlette is the guy with the highest ceiling in the system right now. There is certainly a greater “need” in the farm system for good position prospects, but good baseball teams generally don’t draft based on need. Player acquisitions come in many forms in baseball, and while I love the idea of having a good offensive catcher, I worry that the Mariners will be left with the same scenario they currently face: having a player that can’t stay behind the plate because his bat has too much value to risk injury behind the plate.
Zunino has received comparisons to Buster Posey and Mike Napoli, both of which are getting time at first base at this point in their career. Zunino figures to be a fast riser though, and a pretty safe pick.
The Mariners were one of seven teams that passed on Mark Appel (we’ll see about his medicals or signability), who I’d have preferred. I had Zunino fourth on my board, behind Appel, Byron Buxton, and Carlos Correa. Correa and Buxton were off the board when the Mariners picked.
I’ve also complained that the Mariners would sap the value of their catcher prospects if they drafted Zunino. I meant that in terms of their value to the team, but considering that the minor league stadiums play to the strengths of hitters generally, they may be able to garner more trade interest in one of the catcher prospects by leaving them in the minors for a couple more years.
Heading into today, the top guys on my list for the Mariners were Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton in that order. I was pretty confident Correa would slip to Seattle but Houston surprised everyone taking Correa number one overall. Buxton followed and I really had no clue on whether Seattle would go pitching or Zunino. Well Zunino was the guy and I am pleased with the pick.
He doesn’t have the highest ceiling but he is relatively low risk and I think he has all the makings to become one of the top catchers in the league. Zunino does not have a plus tool but he has plenty of above-average tools across the board. I think he could develop into one of the best offensive catchers in the league with good defense behind the plate.
Not only was Zunino one of the best player’s available, he fills an organizational need. He brings a great bat into the system and it is also at catcher, a position that the system is really lacking in. Zunino is a great leader behind the plate and I think he fits nicely with the current crop of pitching prospects that the Mariners have. Overall, I am pleased with Zunino pick and I do not think he will cost much, saving more money to go for a high upside guy that may slip in round two.