As it turns out, the Mariners did the unexpected… by doing the expected.
By selecting the Gainesville Gator, Seattle did exactly what 99% of mock drafts and experts expected them to do. I’m sure the Mariners probably preferred Buxton or Correa, but as many expected, neither one was available. Clearly the Mariners believe that the pitching class this year is of the lower echelon, as displayed by passing on the consensus number one draft choice, Mark Appel, who was available when the Mariners selected…and 5 picks after.
A surprisingly large sector of Mariner fans seem to be unhappy with this pick for one reason or another. Compairisons to Jeff Clement are completely unwarranted, and seem to be driving the bus behind a “safe pick” label. Well, they are both catchers and males; after that, the comparisons end. Zunino is heralded for his outstanding defense (voted to the All-SEC Defensive team twice) and throwing arm, while it was always doubtful that Clement could stick at the position. Clement was drafted above slot, out of an organizational need (… tsk, tsk). Zunino was drafted because he was the best player available. Clement was a bat and a bat only, while Zunino is less of a bat, but a much more rounded player.
While this is regarded as a “safe” pick, I don’t really see how that is a bad thing. Both of the risky high school picks with high ceilings came off the board immediately. This draft wasn’t deep, and the pitching even less so. The organization made what they felt to be the right decision and with both Correa and Buxton off the board, I have to agree that this was the right choice. This breed of catcher hasn’t been easy to come by in the league for some time now. Offensively acceptable, defensively able catchers don’t exactly grow on tree these days. Zunino joins a rich class of high potential catchers already within the organization. Marcus Littlewood, John Hicks, Jack Marder, and Tyler Marlette all just took a back seat to the newest Mariner addition. Some of them could become trade bait, and others will remain within the organization as insurance. Because as we have seen, you can never have enough catching.
Zunino will advance according to his bat. The Mariners will probably put him in High Desert (soft landing) or West Tennessee after he signs on the dotted line. Zunino may not be the glamorous pick Mariner fans were looking for, but he is a good pick. Disregard those Jeff Clement comparisons as the accuracy is lacking. This pick has undoubtedly made this organization better and deeper. Sign soon Zunino, and get in there as soon as possible. Welcome to Seattle.