Report: Mike Zunino Demoted, John Hicks Recalled


The Seattle Mariners have been busy making massive changes within their organization on Friday. Jack Zduriencik was fired on Friday morning, and his successor, Jeff Kingston is reportedly wasting little time making head scratching moves. According to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Kingston has demoted Mike Zunino to Tacoma and recalled John Hicks to Seattle.

Mike Zunino entered the season as one of the best young backstops in baseball, but he has failed to live up to the hype. The 24-year-old is currently hitting a measly .174 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI through 112 games. Zunino has struck out 132 times while walking 21 times across 386 plate appearances. His .230 on base percentage and .300 slugging percentage both leave plenty to be desired.

Zunino may be having a rough season at the plate, but he remains an asset behind it. He has registered a .994 fielding percentage across 919.2 innings defensively. Zunino has thrown out 34% of potential base stealers this season, which is an improvement from last season. He has tallied 1.3 defensive wins above replacement in 2015. Zunino is also a great pitch framer. He has always been great with the pitching staff, consistently getting the most of their abilities.

The M’s selected Mike Zunino third overall in the 2012 draft, and he raced to the big leagues in 2013. The University of Florida alum flashed his immense upside last season. Zunino hit .199 with 22 home runs and 60 RBI across 131 games in 2014. He has as much raw power as anyone int he game, but adjusting to hitting Major League breaking pitches has been a struggle.

Feb 26, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher John Hicks poses for a portrait during photo day at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

John Hicks is a catcher M’s fans are somewhat familiar with. Currently listed as the Mariners 23rd best prospect, Hicks will make his Major League debut in the coming days. The 25-year-old has posted a .245 batting average with 6 home runs, 35 RBI and 9 steals through 83 games with the Rainiers in 2015. Hicks’ .982 fielding percentage is not ideal, but his 44% caught stealing percentage suggests his arm is big league caliber.

Hicks is a decent catcher, but I do not understand why Steve Baron was not called up instead. Baron is a former first round pick who is hitting .273 with 3 home runs, 20 RBI and 4 stolen bases across 46 games in Tacoma. Baron has a weaker arm, but his leatherwork is considerably better than Hicks. the 24-year-old took longer than expected to develop in the minor leagues, but appears to possess a higher ceiling than that of Hicks.

Despite Mike Zunino’s struggles offensively in 2015, I am very much against this move. The Tacoma Rainiers’ season ends on September 7, and Zunino can be recalled to Seattle as early as September 1. It is unlikely he will make significant improvements in his game playing at the lower level for just over a week. This move should have been made much earlier in the season if the Mariners were interested in getting Z some more reps in Tacoma.

Also, there is very little in the way of suitable replacements for Zunino currently on the roster. Jesus Sucre should see the bulk of the work catching moving forwardg, but he has been even worse than Zunino. Sucre is hitting .097, and his decision making behind the plate has led to some awkward exchanges with pitches. The M’s have been trying to replace Sucre all season, and for good reason.

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There really is no logic behind the decision to demote Mike Zunino with so little time left in the season. At this point, it is simply a personal insult to him. He has steadily improved under the guidance of Edgar Martinez. Z should be getting as many opportunities to face Major League pitching as possible down the stretch.

It is nice to see that Jeff Kingston is equally as irrational as his predecessor was when it comes to player development. The Mariners are one of the worst run franchises in professional sports, and it’s nauseating to watch from a fans perspective.

Next: Mariners News: Jack Zduriencik Out as M's GM

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