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Is Mike Zunino's Way-Too-Early Mariners Call-Up Going to Hurt His Development?

SEATTLE, WA - JULY 03:  Catcher Mike Zunino, the Seattle Mariners' first-round draft choice, is introduced to the media as Scouting Director Tom McNamara (L) and GM Jack Zduriencik look on prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field on July 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Chris StephensCorrespondent IIDecember 13, 2016

As June continues to roll on, the call-ups are continuing as Mike Zunino was called up by the Seattle Mariners from Triple-A Tacoma.

Got it confirmed from someone who would know: Mike Zunino has gotten the callup, catching a plane from Vegas to Seattle this afternoon

— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) June 11, 2013

Zunino is the first position player from the 2012 draft class to be called up. He follows pitchers Kevin Gausman (Baltimore Orioles), Alex Wood (Atlanta Braves) and Michael Wacha (St. Louis Cardinals).

However, one has to wonder if his early call-up is going to hurt his development?

Will Zunino be able to contribute at a decent level for the Mariners?

 

Questionable Promotion

According to Aaron Gleeman of NBCSports.com, it's a questionable promotion:

As a college star Zunino was always expected to move quickly through the minors and indeed he’s the first position player from the 2012 draft class to reach the majors, but his performance has hardly screamed out for the promotion.

At Tacoma, Zunino had some decent power numbers with 11 home runs, 43 RBI and 12 doubles.

However, his batting average sits at .238 and he's struck out 59 times.

Mariners calling up Mike Zunino.Hello desperation ploy to save some jobs.

— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) June 11, 2013

Some have seen Zunino first-hand and aren't sure he's ready for the big leagues.

Over these last couple weeks, I've seen Zunino get overmatched on 90 MPH fastballs and chase a lot of pitches out of the zone.

— Michael Schwartze (@Mike_Schwartze) June 11, 2013

That could be one of the reasons he's struck out 59 times. In fact, over his last five games, he's struck out three times twice.

He's only played in 47 games, which means he's averaging more than a strikeout per game.

My guess is the Mariners are hoping to get the Mark Reynolds-effect from Zunino—someone who may strike out a lot, but will also hit a lot of home runs.

 

Development of Young Players...Or Lack Thereof

When it comes to the Mariners, they have a questionable history at developing young players.

Just look at Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.

All were expected to be the next big thing in Seattle, but have largely faltered.

Montero can barely stay above the Mendoza line, while Smoak has never provided the power most thought he would. Then there's Ackley, who is back in Triple-A after struggling the in majors in 2012 and 2013.

It's not a question of the player's talent because all were very talented at some point.

However, you have to question the player development in the minors.

In a blog by Jux Berg for the Seattle Times, the Mariners haven't had the ability to overcome player development failures.

In addition to misidentifying the types of hitters needed for a pitcher-friendly ballpark, a lack of organizational focus on scouting, drafting and player development in the past has crippled the Seattle Mariners offensively.

There may be a new regime in the front office in Seattle, but the fact remains that they're failing to develop talent.

Players aren't coming up to the majors ready to go as they're still having to learn on the fly.

All of the "next big thing" players have experienced hardships and continue to struggle.

Will the same be said for Zunino?

 

Verdict

You can go one of two ways when judging this move.

The Mariners currently rank 25th in baseball in attendance, averaging 21,286 per game.

So if it's a move to put more butts in the seats, then it will only last through the all-star break as it will become old for fans.

If it's a move because the brass feel Zunino is ready, then only time will tell if they were right.

I think it should go without saying that if Zunino struggles in the big leagues this year and into next, the Mariners need to seriously take another look at their player development. Currently, it's not up to snuff.

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