In line with our release of the Mariners greatest catcher of all-time, Dan Wilson, it seems appropriate to try and find the M’s next great man behind the plate. Over the last handful of years, the hope has been that Mike Zunino will be the next Dan Wilson, but will he?
Out of the 27 Mariners that have come and gone through Seattle since Wilson hung up his cleats in 2005, only one of them has hit 20 home runs in a single season, and only two have smacked at least 20 doubles in a lone year.
One of the players to knock at least 20 two-baggers was Kenji Johjima who did it twice in 2006 and 2007, but the other guy who did it happens to be the player to also blast 20 long bombs, and that was, Mike Zunino.
Now, by no means are reaching these marks any accomplishment, 67 other guys have hit that many doubles since 2005 and 32 other men have crushed that many homers, but it’s the best production the Mariners have gotten out of the 2-spot in over a decade.
Ironically, many of the players who did reach those offensive heights were also one of the 27 Mariners catchers, they just weren’t playing for the M’s when they did it.
Nevertheless, Zunino has at times given Mariners fans hope that maybe there can be solid numbers put up by a catcher in an M’s uniform. Yet, 2017 may not be the year that Zunino gets full control behind the plate.
According to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times report, Ruiz is regarded highly by M’s manager, Scott Servais, because of his championship pedigree and his plate control. But Servais also sees Ruiz as more than just a now-and-then back-up.
"“Understand we’re not looking forward for Mike Zunino to play or catch 125 or 130 games,”"
If it doesn’t seem in the cards for Zunino to reach that many games played, the chance that he could reach his 2014 stats that were similar to Wilson’s (22 doubles, 20 home runs, and 60 RBI) is quite low.
Now, “The Man” never had 20 home runs in a single year, but his offensive and defensive figures were very good year in and year out as our own, Colby Patnode, wrote yesterday.
Patnode and Divish also expressed how it seemed that Johjima could have been the catcher of the future when he was with the club from 2006-2009, but, each year from 06′-08′, his numbers declined. He then went back to the Nippon League where his career began to take bring his baseball life full circle.
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That left a gaping hole at the catcher’s spot that was temporarily filled by Miguel Olivo, Kelly Shoppach, and Adam Moore, who were among the 16 total players tried behind the plate before Zunino even got the call to the majors.
Even though Zunino has had power in spurts, his overall hitting numbers have been dismal since 2012, never hitting above .214 and twice hitting below .200.
Zunino has had the opportunity to work on his game at the plate with one of the greatest hitters in Mariners history, Edgar Martinez, and now he’ll work alongside Scott Brosius, the M’s new hitting coach.
This might be a change that could take Zunino out of his career-long hitting slump, but if he doesn’t get a couple of complete seasons of experience playing at least 130 games like he did once in 2014, we’ll never be able to know the full potential of Zunino who is just now hitting his peak age for optimal performance.