Mariners Talk podcast powered by SodoMojo.com always has an off-current-topic discussion where we pick something interesting to talk about the Mariners. Last week it was Mariners players who had a bright future for the team but never had the opportunity to shine. This week in honor of the College World Series we’ll be talking about Mariners players that have had terrific college careers. We do have five already that we will discuss on Sunday.
Be sure to tune in Sunday night at 7 PM PDT over at the following link. You can also call in and give us your thoughts on the week that was, or add to the list you are about to read. To do that, call 1 (724) 444-7444 and be sure to then enter the code, 129537# to join in the fun.
5. Justin Smoak
Born and raised in Goose Creek, South Carolina Smoak turned into one of the brightest young athletes to come out of South Carolina. In his junior year in high school the scouts really began to look at Smoak.
In both 2004 and 2005 he was named South Carolina AAAA Player of the year, made the South Carolina AAAA All-State Team, and helped his school win the 2005 State Championship. Smoak was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 2005 Draft but chose to attend the University of South Carolina.
In Smoak’s first year with the Gamecocks he earned Freshman All-American honors after batting .303 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs. He posted almost the same numbers in both 2007 and 2008.
In ’07 he batted .315 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs. In ’08 he batted an amazing .383 (no I’m not lying) with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. Smoak finished his college career as the school’s all time leader in walks, RBIs, and in home runs.
He was also a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award in 2007 and 2008.
If you look at pitcher who the Mariners didn’t draft in the first round of the 2011 Draft you’ll see Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray. Hultzen has yet to show the Mariners what he’s really made of, but he did have one impressive college career. In 2009, Hultzen finished his season with the Virginia Cavaliers at 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA and won numerous awards. He won the ACC Freshman of the Year award, First-Team All-ACC, ACC Academic Honor Roll, and All-ACC Baseball Team.
In 2010 he won the ACC Pitcher of the Year and was named to the First-Team All-ACC, and finished the season at 11-1 with a 2.78 ERA. He finished his final year at Virginia with a 12-3 record and a 1.37 ERA and won the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year.
The M’s drafted him and signed him to a five-year $8.5 million deal that has yet to pay off, but hopefully next season Hultzen will be up and ready to make his long awaited major league debut.
3. Jeff Clement
We talked about Clement last week on Mariners Talk, he was a player that really shined in college and in the minors but never lived up to his hype. Clement was featured in an issue of Sports Illustrated during his senior year in high school, he was then drafted by the Minnesota Twins but didn’t sign with the team due to a poor performance at the pre-draft showcase.
Clement then went to the University of Southern California and in his freshman year he made noise and lots of it. He went on to hit 21 home runs and drove in 53 runs and won a number of awards. He also played on the U.S. National Team.
In the 2003 season he was named Collegiate Baseball Freshman National Co-Player of the Year, Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year, earned Baseball America Freshman All-American first team, and Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American first team honors.
Clement won a gold medal with the US National Team at the World University Baseball Championship, and his ’04 season with USC he was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award.
But 2005 saw Clement win the Johnny Bench Award along with earning 2005 Baseball America All-American First Team, USA Today Sports Weekly All-American first team and Collegiate Baseball All-American first team honors. He also took home 2005 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-American third team honors and was a finalist for the 2005 Golden Spikes Award and named to the All Pac-10 team for the third straight year.
Still, Ackley has done well with the M’s but hasn’t really shown his true skills that he showed in college. Ackley played for the University of North Carolina along with teammate Kyle Seager. During his 3 years he did nothing but produce.
In his first season with the Tar Heels Ackley set North Carolina single-season records and led the nation in hits with 119.
In 2007 Ackley batted an amazing .402, scored 70 runs, hit 10 home runs, and had 74 RBIs a UNC record. He helped the Tar Heels make it to the final of the College World Series only to lose to Oregon State. A team that featured current Chicago Cubs 2B Darwin Barney.
The following year Ackley batted .417 with a school record 82 runs scored, 7 home runs, and 51 RBIs. He earned All-American honers for the second straight year and was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes award.
He also won the S.H. Basnight Award which is given to the most valuable player on the Tar Heels. Ackley had another fine year in 2009 hitting 22 home runs, batting .417 again, scoring 75 runs, and driving in 73 runs as well.
Ackley set the record in the 2009 College World Series for the most hits during the World Series but North Carolina lost in the second round of the tournament to Arizona State.
1. Mike Zunino
Zunino has had the best college career of any Mariner yet. He really made noise in 2011 for the Florida Gators by hitting 19 home runs and driving in 67 RBIs and won the SEC Baseball Player of the Year and was named to the 2011 College Baseball All-American Team. The 2012 season though saw him have his best season as a Gator.
Zunino in 2012 hit the same amount of homers as he did the previous year and drove in the same amount of runs as well. Zunino led Florida to their third College World Series but lost to both South Carolina and Kent State to get booted from the tournament.
Zunino won the Golden Spikes Award in 2012 along with the Dick Howser Award, the Johnny Bench Award, and was named the Baseball America College Player of the Year.
Zunino made the jump to the majors in just his second year with the Mariners. Zunino was named to his first Opening Day roster this year and has showed his power several times. Give Zunino another year or two and watch him become one of the best catchers to ever play for the Mariners.