Following Everett's Sunday night win over Spokane, word started circling on Twitter that catcher Mike Zunino -- the Mariners 1st round pick, 3rd overall, in the 2012 draft -- was finally leaving Short Season ball and was headed to the Double-A Jackson Generals in the Southern League, as SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall had suggested would happen.
Zunino's introduction to pro baseball for the AquaSox could not have gone much better. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter leaves after 29 games leading the Northwest League in home runs (10), ranking 5th in RBI (35), 10th in total bases (81) and tied for 18th in doubles (10) despite playing in about half of the games so far on the season for the circuit (57). For the time frame that he was in Everett (July 14th - August 12th), Zunino had the most hits in the league (41), 14 more RBI, seven more runs scored and 16 more total bases than the next closest hitter. Overall, the native of Coral Gables, FL, is hitting .373/.474/.736 in 110 at bats. On top of his big power numbers, Zunino also drew 18 walks during his time in Everett, where he was the No. 3 hitter for the first place AquaSox.
Zunino hit .349/.453/.714 in 17 July games and then .404/.500/.766 in 12 August games, driving in 21 runs over his last nine contests. He averaged one home run every 11 at bats versus both right-handers (8 in 88 ABs) and left-handers (2 in 22 ABs). Defensively, he cut down seven of 16 would-be basestealers while allowing seven passed balls and making four errors during his 19 games behind the plate for Everett.
Zunino joins a Jackson squad that was given the title of "Most Talented Team in Minor League Baseball" by Baseball America prior to the season. The Generals won the Southern League's North Division by seven games in the first half but have struggled a bit in the second half, losing several players to promotions and not getting the consistent performances that they saw in the first half from several remaining players, and they currently sit a game and a half behind Chattanooga for the 2nd half division lead.
The jump to Double-A from Short Season A ball should provide a nice challenge for Zunino, but he has the goods to succeed. The Northwest League line was .250/.331/.361 and the Southern League has a .252/.333/.375 line, but above league hitting conditions will be the presence of more polished talent. There will be more challenging pitching, including pitchers that will throw more consistent strikes and better breaking stuff, for Zunino to deal with.
This promotion seems to fall in line with an MLB ETA of late 2013 for Zunino if all goes well. And if his time in Everett is any indication, there isn't much that lies ahead for Mike that could stop things from going well.