Seattle Mariners Top-10 Story Lines For 2015

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Sep 16, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino reacts after being hit by a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels in the 6th inning during the game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

5- Will Mike Zunino find a higher average?

Is it the Curse of the #3? Ever since a certain roid-taking, money-loving, shortstop left the Emerald City for a division rival, the Mariners haven’t had a lot of luck with players wearing the number 3.

Which is unfortunate for two reasons. 1- I was #3 growing up, I wear it to this day in my adult league. 2- I really like Mike Zunino.

I think he is an underrated catcher. He led all American League catchers in assists in 2014 – 84 – and was 5th in runners caught stealing – 28.

He also hit 22 homers – a new single-season Mariners record. But he hit below the Mendoza line with a slash line of .199/.254/.404.

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It’s right-handed pitchers he has trouble with. In 2014, he batted .176 with 17 of his homers, defining the all-or-nothing mentality. He hit .252 against lefties.

He is still young. About to turn 24 during Spring Training, there is still plenty of time to see Zunino grow. But the Mariners need to see some offensive improvement in 2015, or they may be forced to start looking at other options.

The Mariners reportedly were trying to land Russell Martin this offseason before he signed with Toronto, which tells me that GM Jack Zduriencik is already looking into other options.

The new lineup could help. If Z bats 8th, he will potentially have Ruggiano or Smith and Taylor or Miller on either side of him. If he bats 9th, then he has Miller or Taylor and Austin Jackson on either side.

If Miller and Jackson can bounce back from below-average seasons, it could greatly impact the kind of pitches Zunino gets.

We’ll see how they handle it in Spring.