Mariners News: Mike Zunino Homers in Five Straight Games, Earns PCL Honor

Jul 9, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (3) hits an RBI-sacrifice fly against the Los Angeles Angels during the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (3) hits an RBI-sacrifice fly against the Los Angeles Angels during the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Mike Zunino has earned player of the week honors in the Pacific Coast League and is scorching hot with 6 home runs in 5 straight games.

The future catcher of the Seattle Mariners Mike Zunino had a rapid ascension through the Mariners farm system and to the Major League club.  However he struggled through two seasons on the big club.  His Major League stats did not look good.  In two season on the big club Zunino batted .193/.252/.393 with 38 home runs.  At the end of the 2015 season in a slew of Mariners moves, Zunino was moved to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers.  During the winter, Jerry Dipoto brought in his own experienced catcher Chris Iannetta.  Iannetta was signed to be the number one catcher for the Mariners and Mike Zunino started the season with the Tacoma Rainiers as expected to get properly seasoned.  While it’s expected that he will spend the whole season with Tacoma, it will be interesting to see as the season progresses what happens as Mike Zunino is doing everything he can to get a call up.

More from Mariners News

So here we are 8 games into the 2016 Tacoma Rainiers campaign.  It was just announced that Mike Zunino earned Pacific Coast League Player of the Week honor for his tremendous week for batting .441 in 8 games and 4 home runs in 4 straight games.  He slashed .441/.444/.882 while having 11 RBI and only striking out 6 times in 34 at bats.  Not a bad start.

As if that wasn’t enough, the University of Florida alum by way of Mariner High School in Cape Coral, Florida, hit two more home runs today. So after the announcement that he had won the Player of the Week award he goes out and has a game.  Zunino is now hitting .447 with 6 home runs and 15 RBI.  His contact rate in Tacoma is at 84.2%.  Granted that 38 at bats is a small sample size and while no one likes to jump to conclusions about Zunino being cured of all that was wrong with him, it is fair to say that he is on a tear in Tacoma and this is good news.  Good news about the development of the future of the team.

The better question is, how long in Triple A is enough for the slugger?  We already know his defense is superb.  His ability to frame pitches and his superior blocking skills behind the plate is something he already possesses.  While many have speculated that a full season in Tacoma is needed due to his struggles at the plate, this writer doesn’t agree.  One doesn’t have to look far for an example of wasted talent at the Triple A level in Edgar Martinez.  Martinez was blocked at the Majors by Jim Presley and had a few very strong seasons in Triple A before getting promoted to the Major League club.  Edgar batted .323, .363, and .345 in a little over two seasons in Calgary, the Mariners Triple A affiliate before getting his final call up and staying up on the Major League roster.

More from SoDo Mojo

The big picture is needed to understand how long is enough.  Currently the Mariners number one catcher is doing just fine for the team.  Chris Iannetta has a slash line of .276/.400/.483 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI while striking out just 9 times in 29 official at bats and a contact rate of 69% which is very respectable for a Major League backstop.  His counterpart however hasn’t had many opportunities and has too small of a sample size to make any determination based on statistics as to how he is going to do.  Steve Clevenger currently has a slash line of .100/.100/.100 with 1 hit and 1 RBI and 2 strikeouts in 10 at bats and contact rate of 80%.

In order to look at this from an team perspective here is how the catching position has fared for the Mariners so far in 2016.  The catching position has slashed .231/.333/.385 with 2 homers and 6 RBI with 5 walks and 11 strikeouts in 39 at bats for a contact rate of 71.8%.  The Mariners catching position is tied with the Angels for 15th in the MLB in batting average, 9th in on base percentage, and 13th in slugging percentage.

This is much better than the Mariners have done in recent years from that position including when Mike Zunino was on the big club.  Nonetheless, you have to wonder how a Zunino/Iannetta combination would do at the big club level.  You also have to wonder if the team is wasting all those hits and home runs at the Triple A level.  You also have to ask yourself how much Zunino can help the current pitching staff.  These questions will be asked by the front office in the next few weeks especially if Zunino continues to tear the cover off the ball in Tacoma.  Either way, this is great news for the team.

Next: Top Prospect D.J. Peterson is Cold as Ice in Jackson