Mike Zunino

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Mike Zunino

Michael Accorsi Zunino

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Biographical Information[edit]

Mike Zunino was the third overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, taken by the Seattle Mariners. His father Greg Zunino hit over .300 in his minor league career before becoming a scout while his uncle Gary Zunino played professionally as well.

Amateur Career[edit]

Mike played in the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Game in 2008. As a high school junior, he hit .457 and slugged .897 and made All-State. His senior year, he batted .464/.531/.918 with 12 homers and was All-State again. The Oakland Athletics took him in the 30th round of the 2009 amateur draft but he opted for college. In his freshman year at Florida, he batted .267/.314/.472 and played in the 2010 College World Series. He was named the Freshman All-American catcher by Baseball America.

As a sophomore, Zunino improved to .371/.442/.674 with 19 home runs, 75 runs and 67 RBI in 72 games. He led the Southeastern Conference in total bases (178), hits (98), runs, doubles (23, tied with Preston Tucker) and home runs, was second in slugging (to Mikie Mahtook), OPS (behind Mahtook) and RBI (7 behind Tucker) and tied for third in average. He ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in slugging (20th, right behind fellow catcher Kevan Smith), home runs (tied for 7th), RBI (tied for 18th), doubles (tied for 18th), runs (3rd after Jake Lowery and Tyler Robbins and total bases (third after Lowery and Victor Roache). He was named SEC Player of the Year, only the second Florida Gator to do so (Matt LaPorta had won twice). He also was named first-team All-American at catcher by both Baseball America and the American Baseball Coaches Association. Collegiate Baseball picked Lowery instead. In the 2011 College World Series, Florida went to the finals. In the first game of the best-of-3 finals, Zunino was on base in the 9th in a 1-1 game but was thrown out at home by Scott Wingo. In the 11th, he made a crucial error, throwing the ball into center field and allowing Christian Walker to score the winning run for South Carolina. In game 2, he was 3 for 3 with a homer but Florida lost, 5-2. He also was 10 for 33 with 2 doubles and 3 walks for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League.

He was the top college player selected in the 2012 amateur draft, with the third overall pick, following the selections of high schoolers Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. The day after his selection in the draft, he was named as one of three finalists for the 2012 Golden Spikes Award. He won the Dick Howser Trophy as well and then took home the Golden Spikes Award. He signed with the Mariners in early July for a $4 million bonus.

Professional Career[edit]

Zunino was initially assigned to the Everett AquaSox in 2012 but was clearly well above the rest of the league, hitting .373/.474/.737 with 10 home runs, 29 runs and 35 RBI in 29 games (the only negative being 7 passed balls). That performance let him skip two levels and go straight to AA with the Jackson Generals, where he hit .333 in 15 games to end the season. He was assigned to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers at the start of 2013 and hit .227/.297/.478 in 52 games. He hit 12 doubles, 3 triples and 11 homers during that span, even though his BA and OBP were rather low. He got the call to Seattle earlier than expected, on June 11th, because another top catching prospect, Jesus Montero, had not fulfilled expectations.

He made his major league debut on June 12, 2013 as the starting catcher against the Houston Astros, going 1 for 4. Facing Jordan Lyles, he struck out in his first at-bat, but lined a single to center for his first big league hit his second time up. He was hitting .242 after 49 games when he was placed on the disabled list with a broken bone in his right hand on July 26th. He had been injured while swinging the bat the previous day and had to undergo surgery, missing six weeks of action. He came back in the first days of September and played regularly over the last month, although he did not hit much, ending the year with a .214 average, 5 homers and 14 RBIs in 52 games. He was the Mariners' opening day catcher in 2014 and got the bulk of the playing time while sharing duties with veteran John Buck. On April 29th, he had the first four-hit game of his career, going 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in a 6-3 win over the New York Yankees. He played 131 games that season, but hit only .199 in spite of 22 home runs and 60 RBIs.

In 2015, he played 112 games as the Mariners' starting catcher, but continued to struggle with a low batting average, hitting only .174. His power fell as well, as he hit 11 homers and drove in 28 runs. His OPS+ had been 88 in 2014 - poor, but acceptable for a good defensive catcher, but was an awful 48 that season. The Mariners' brass was very concerned about the apparent regression of someone who was seen as a key part of the team. In 2016, he played only 55 games and while he hit only .207 - still a major improvement over the previous two years - he displayed very good power, with 7 doubles and 12 homers, giving him an OPS+ of 112. He was still striking out too much - 65 times in 164 at bats, after compiling totals of 158 and 132 the previous two years, but there was some hope. He also played 79 games in the minors, where he hit a solid .286 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs. In 2017, he got another opportunity to start, but he continued to strike out too much with a very low batting average, and was sent down to AAA for a couple of weeks in May. On his return, he had a great game on June 3rd when he hit a grand slam and drove in 7 runs in a 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. That game marked the start of a hot streak as he hit .338 with 9 homers and 28 RBIs over his first 22 games following his return from the minors. That included a pair of two-homer games on June 4th and June 19th. In June, he had already set a new franchise record for most RBIs in any month by a catcher with 26 - with ten days still to go in the month. He finished the season with a .251 average - by far the best of his career - and 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 124 games. His control of the strike zone was still less than optimal, with 39 walks and 160 Ks, but he did enough when he did make contact to be a sold offensive contributor, with an OPS+ of 125.

Zunino regressed badly in 2018, the year the Mariners thought they would finally make it back to the postseason. They started off hot but then cooled down and were passed by the surprising Oakland Athletics. He was one of the players singled out for underperforming, as his batting average fell back to .201, his K/W rate was a dismal 24/150 and while he hit 18 doubles and 20 homers, his OPS+ was just 85. After the season, on November 8th, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, along with OF Guillermo Heredia, another disappointment, in return for OFs Jake Fraley and Mallex Smith. He played 90 games for Tampa in 2019, hitting just .165 with 9 homers and 32 RBIs in 90 games. Officially, he was considered the team's regular catcher, but he was thoroughly eclipsed by Chase d'Arnaud, who was brought in as a reclamation project after a few weeks and outhit him by a wide margin. D'Arnaud started all of Tampa's postseason games while Zunino did not see any action. It looked like that was the end of his stint as a Ray, but d'Arnaud left the team as a free agent following his successful re-birth, and Tampa decided to re-sign Mike on the cheap to at least have a veteran catcher around in 2020.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2021)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2014, 2017, 2018 & 2021)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2021)


Related Sites[edit]