Mike Zunino, C, Florida - SSI pre-draft $0.02


=== What's Lame About 'Im? ===

His bat could be less than a sure thing.  At least as far as his being a 1-1 overall pick.  He's hitting .240 in his conference, he's got skeptics among pro scouts, and Dr. D would agree that he most definitely does not have an Ackley-, Rendon-level presence at the plate.  SSI envisions a .250 average in the bigs; that's just a first impression off a few vids, of course.


Dr. D hates, hates, double-hates the fact that Zunino plays the catcher position.  The cliche is that you don't draft with respect to the big league team... there is no general principle that should be applied indiscriminately.

Let's take the reductio ad absurdum here.  Suppose that you just signed Buster Posey to a $100M contract?  And suppose that you had Brian McCann behind him, playing C/DH and he was making $10M per year, and suppose Matt Weiters was on your team playing 1B/C/DH?  Do you then go out and sign Alex Avila if he's half price?

You see the point.  There does come a time at which you say, no, we've got Ortiz at DH and Manny out of position in LF, we don't want any more stinkin' DH's.  And there comes a point at which you say we have invested a whale of a lot in Jesus Montero, we don't want another #1 catcher.

At a certain point, some of the Seattle zeal for Zunino becomes a way for amigos to recoup their false predictions on Montero being a DH, like when Michael Pineda was doing the Godzilla Stomp on the AL and bloggers were proposing all sorts of ways to trade his fanny out of here.  

Jesus Montero is not a DH; he's a .500-.600 slugging catcher.  We got one of those.


Take Zunino out of the catching position, move him to 1B, and his bat isn't* worth a 1-1 overall pick.

*unless Jay-Z says so.


=== Point Counterpoint Dept. ===

The New York Yankees had two great catchers from 1956 to 1962, those being Yogi Berra and Elston Howard.  They won the pennant 6 times in those 7 years.

If you were super coherent about using Montero and Zunino like the Yankees did their catchers, both always in the lineup, then sure.


=== Dr. D's Vibe ===

See the comment about Jay-Z's and Tommy Mac's grandmaster intuition.  This is precisely where it is needed; these are razor-thin calls and you gotta get 'em right.  Dr. D claims no ability to make these particular calls.

That said, it looks from here like Zunino is going to wind up with BB's and HR's at the plate, if not AVG.  Guess here is that by year 3-4, you'd have a Jason Varitek -- .250, good OBP, with 20-25 homers and him being the team captain.

Zunino seems to be unusually intelligent, he catches intelligently, and he hits intelligently.  Inside Pitch always looks for this quality; it gives a player a great chance to continue improving.

This pick would be redundant against Montero, and redundancy means lost value, by definition.  But if there were a coherent Berra-Howard plan over there at Royal Brougham, one that emphasizes two catchers, yeah.

I think I'd sign John Jaso as my second catcher, five year deal type thing, and avoid losing any of the C value that I currently possess. But it's possible that Mike Zunino is head-and-shoulders the surest thing in the draft.


My $0.01,

Dr D




Same (sub) text, even.
Zunino gives us a good college hitter.  Not great, not spectacular (though he could always become that) but good. But he duplicates Montero in every way possible.
1) Both righty, so they can't platoon.
2) Neither will play another position (RH 1B are meh, too slow for the OF), so DH is their only remaining option
3) Zunino is not a HS catcher, so it's not like he'll be arriving when Montero is getting too pricey.  He'll be here when Montero finally gets the gig for himself.
4) which will make Montero angry, since he very much wants to catch.
That's an awful lot of trouble.  We did it for A-Rod when we kicked lil Omar to the curb, but that was for 600+ HR A-Rod.  Zunino is not the HS bat of the decade and a shoe-in HOFer at 21.
We have other options.  Just stay away from the first round college hitters all together, please.


The draft is less then a week away yet there hasn't been much talk here about it. I'm interested in your opinion on Correa.
On Zunino, I have no problem taking him. Having two great catchers on your team is absolutely not a bad thing. Catchers need regular days off, they get worn down over time, and they often get hurt. So if both Montero and Zunino are healthy, you can always have a great catcher in the game with out overworking either. And if Montero gets injured and misses a month or a year (which should be expected) you won't miss a beat.
Further, when you have two catchers in your lineup each day, you essentially have an extra roster spot to work with. So while having to great catchers might be sub-optimal in some ways, it would be a big help in others. Overall, the issue is not worth taking an inferior player over, especially when Zunino is so safe.
Also, Montero hasn't established himself as a star yet. He has shown flashes of potential but so did Jose Lopez. Assuming that a Yuniesky Betancourt makes an Asdrubal Cabrera expendable before he actually hits consistently is a big mistake. Getting Zunino would just about guarantee that we have a star behind the plate, which isn't assured right now.
And why would you lock up John Jaso for five years instead? He's 28 and under club control for the next 3 years. You would really rather have Jaso's age 32 and 33 seasons than Zunino's prime years?
Finally, I really would be careful underselling his bat. People say he's hitting .250 in the SEC this season, but what has he hit in previous years and what is his slugging percentage? I wouldn't downgrade a guy just because his BA drops over a month or two. Albert Pujols sometimes bats .250 for short periods of time. What I see overall is a guy who has one of the very best slugging percentages in the country among players in a major conference. That suggests he could be at least an average hitter at first base. It would take a lot to scare me away from a guy slugging near .700 with the new bats.

Lonnie of MC's picture

... to being in Zunino's camp, and have been so for the past two months. I loved what I saw last year (tore up the SEC and ripped all of the playoff opponents a new one).
Just out of curiosity, am I the only one who remembers when San Diego had both Benito Santiago and Sandy Alomar at the same time? Do you folks remember what happened?
Back in both 1988 and 1989, Sandy Alomar was the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year. He was pounding on the door to become an everyday catcher at the MLB level. Alomar's biggest problem was that Benito Santiago, the 1987 Rookie of the Year was firmly entrenched behind the plate for the Padres. During the off-season after the '89 season, San Diego traded Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, and Chris James to Cleveland in exchange for Joe Carter. The effectiveness of the trade is moot, but the point is that the Padres, at the time of the trade, got one of the most feared offensive threats of the era.
Can you imagine what Zunino might bring back in a trade after a highly successful cup of joe during the September call-ups in 2013? Can you imagine how nice it would be if Montero falls flat on his face and washes out as a catcher? I mean, wouldn't it make things easier to mover Montero to firstbase or full-time DH if you have a top-flight receiver waiting in the wings?
This is probably all smoke-dreams since the M's are going to take Carlos Correa with the 3rd overall pick anyway...


I read somewhere that Zunio was OPSing ~.950 against the higher level pitching (eg the college teams no 1 starters) in 58 ABs. I assume that stat was from this year. Can't find the link right now.
Oh, wait here it is: at the Stalk of course:
BA also has cool stats for college hitters from Friday games only. If you know college baseball, you know that teams start their #1 starters on Friday at the start of weekend series. So, to get an idea of how the top guys do against the pitchers likely to be moving on to the pros, BA send an intern off to figure it all up.
Zunino: .310/.354/.603 in 58 ABs.


Hot commodity. Just because the Mariners might be near cornering the market in this regard does not mean that we shouldn't take another one. Debeers directors do not sit around and say to each other "I think we should invest in coffee farms, we already have enough diamonds to last a lifetime".  No, they say to each other, "Let's hoard some more, and set the market.  Then we'll put up hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place."  Quotes one capitalist luminary:

"Greed is good".
Being sour on Zunino because we have too many hard hitting catchers is like being in a zombie movie and complaining about having too many guns.  Get that guy in AAA, and let him build some hype, and someone who has gas, shelter or food will want to talk.


Then you'd trade down to #7 and take Dahl, and you'd get some lower-round picks to add depth.
But it's not.
So you have to "trade down" after the draft, when, as Lonnie said, you've got Santiago and Alomar being mutually exclusive.
I've got some more stuff up at The Stalk.


They'll have to deal with all of those four issues, in order to do a Howard/Berra or Santiago/Alomar thang...
Is Zunino as slow as Montero?  Montero's feet call into question even his ability to play first base, and left field is completely out of the question for him.


Justin Smoak hit .400/.500/.750 as a senior, quite a bit better than (say) Evan Longoria ... not to pronounce Smoak dead, but you could find any number of NCAA hitters who were insane in college and who were less than impact in the majors.  Conversely, you could find current MLB stars who were not sensational in college; Seager's a mini-example of this.
Zunino's stats in college do not rule out his being a star with the bat in the bigs.  And the point is 100% conceded as to his .250 AVG in the conference this year.  That's just what the scouts say; my bad for tossing it along...
On the videos, Mike Zunino swings through a lot of pitches badly, suggesting (?) that maybe he's not a .300 hitter in the bigs.
And it's not like he has light-tower power to compensate.
That said, Zunino has not demonstrated a ceiling.  Agreed.  He could be a better hitter than people think.


As Cool Papa notes, Jesus Montero's 40 homers are far from established, so you certainly could spend 2-3 years figuring out which catcher was really going to be your horse.  
And deal the other one... how's about for a fixed-up Michael Pineda?


And use the extra million to draft another great prospect in the 3rd. But you'd have to be sure he'd sign for cheaper. There was the rumor that the Ms went "cheap" with Franklin and Baron to be able to afford Ackley's demands, but both guys signed for slot or over, so that didn't pan out if it was indeed the plan. Like you said, the only way to "trade down" may actually be to draft with the idea of trading later.
The "Draft Zunino" plan is basically what the Reds did with Grandal after they already had Devin Mesoraco in house.
Mesoraco was the 15th pick in the 2007 draft, Grandal the 12th in 2010. They stated that they loved Mesoraco but Grandal was the best talent available and they weren't passing him over for a lesser player. I wanted Grandal badly (he was my choice if we were gonna trade Fister last year) and after the Reds traded him to the Padres for Mat Latos, Yasmani has looked GREAT in AAA. Latos...not so much.
The difference in that draft scenario is that the Reds were simply accumulating pieces because they didn't know if Mesoraco would work out, and they could trade whomever they didn't want. We traded Pineda for Montero and we plan to have him in our MOTO for several years to come, so Montero's not going anywhere.
If you make it clear to Montero that his job's not at stake, okay, but that still seems like a lot of hassle. If you're drafting a #3 pick just to trade him, I guess I don't see that as a good strategy. Why aren't we talking about trading Ackley if that's how we want to operate? After all, Seager is hitting better and plays 2nd better too.
"The Plan" hasn't worked out yet for the Reds, though it's very early. If they'd just drafted Chris Sale (taken with the pick right after Grandal) then they wouldn't have had excess depth and a lack of pitching and could have fixed their problem with a guy who looks like a better pitcher than the one they traded for anyway.
Going through all the hassle and expense of drafting a player, rolling the dice that he'll work out, then having him work out only to trade him to someone ELSE (who hopefully matches you need-for-need) in the hopes that what you get back also works out...seems like a ton of work when you could just draft somebody different and go through half that hassle.
Two step plan:
A) draft Dahl/Correa/Buxton


You want to keep your relationship with Montero as sound as a dollar... oh, wait...
If you do not, then you are creating serious redundancy, and redundancy is waste of resources by definition.  Old chessplayer talking here.  You have three pieces all hitting the same square, you lose the game.
It's one thing to multiply resources, another thing to have your resources covering a wide array of responsibilities.
Zunino WILL cost you Montero value that you CURRENTLY own.

M-Pops's picture

This report has Dahl as an easy top-10 pick. I wonder what the thoughts on Dahl (Youtube vids are plentiful) are around here, and how recently a team reached by 6 or 7 spots to get their guy.
The report I linked has Dahl as more of a corner OF with average solid speed, so his bat would have to be special to justify a #3 selection.


I don't know how college stats translate, but Smoak would not have slugged .750 with the current bats. The only players doing anything like that this year are in the weak conferences. Statistically, at least, Zunino is one of the very best hitters in college. His numbers aren't just good for a catcher, they are good for anybody. That's why I'm comfortable having Zunino along with Montero, because his bat would likely to be at least decent for a first baseman. It wouldn't be like having Miguel Olivo DH.


Or DH. Right-handed first basemen are disliked for a reason, and a RH, intermediate-power 1B in Safeco is not what any doctor ordered.
If Zunino had a guaranteed major-league 1B bat AND was catching, I'd be all up over that. He's far more like a Charles Johnson hopeful to me. Which is nothing to sneeze at by any means - Johnson was a 20+ WAR player for his career - but I wouldn't let him play first. It would require him to get to all kinds of upside with the lumber, and if I think his upside is Johnson then that means taking a risk that he slots in at something like Rod Barajas if he doesn't hit that upside. I think Zunino will catch a while in the bigs, that's not it - I just don't see him as a Posey-level hitter.
CJ Cron was a C/1B, and a righty, but nobody wanted to draft him first overall (went 17th to the Angels). Comparing dead-bat numbers:
Cron 2011: .434/.517/.803, 1.5 batting eye
Zunino 2012: .323/.394/.664, .6 batting eye
Cron is trying to OPS .800 in the hitter-friendly Cal League right now. Yes, Zunino played in the harder conference, but I'm not thinking of first base as an option for Zunino, nor really DH. He's gotta catch, and he should be able to.
Just not for us, is my hope.


Then he isn't worth drafting third even if we didn't have Montero. So that doesn't really say anything about the value of having two great catchers because we wouldn't have two great catchers.


Charles Johnson, career: .245/.330/.430
Matt Wieters, through 1500 ML ABs: .260/.325/.415
Matt Wieters, last year: .260/.330/.450
Matt Wieters, WAR last year: FIVE
I'd take five WAR from my catcher. The problem is the slide from CJ to a Rod Barajas type (part timer, .235/.285/.415) is not much. Either way, Zunino should play a while in this league, but the only two catchers in the last decade I've believed would be offensive forces and were drafted top half of the first were Mauer and Posey. I wasn't totally sold on Wieters either, but I was more behind him than I am Zunino.
On the Clement Scale Of Disaster Zunino isn't a Richter 9 or anything, because I believe he's absolutely a catcher, and will be a good one. But a good catcher does not mean a good hitter overall, and I don't see Zunino being the hitter that Posey is, or that Montero should turn into. He hopes to be Wieters, but I don't want to spend the pick on that hope.
Even if a(nother?) 5 WAR catcher would be great.


I've tried to check out most of the videos on these guys. I think I'm most impressed with Dahl out of all of them. He mashes. He uses the whole field. He can fly around the bases.
I like the look of Buxton over Correa. I like the motion of Appel. I would be happy with Zunino.
But I think I like Dahl's bat best of all.
But what do I know. I was about to take the paddles off Smoak's chest and proclaim him DOA.

M's Watcher's picture

Sign me up for either of these catching combos. Of course Berra/Howard did it before the DH, so it could be even easier with Montero/Zunino. Of course, I like what Jaso has been doing once he got the chance. I hope also that we manage to shed Olivo by the deadline and free ourselves of his lazy catching.

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