by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Mariners’ Mike Zunino has been on fantasy radars for some time, including hitting 22 HR in the Majors way back in 2014. However he had never been able to pair that power with a strong average, leaving owners frustrated and him continuing on the Triple-A-to-Majors shuttle. That changed last season, as he amassed 435 PA in the Majors and produced solid numbers:
387 At Bats
.251 Batting Average (97 Hits)
25 Home Runs
1 Stolen Bases
.331 On Base Percentage
.509 Slugging Percentage
.355 Batting Average on Balls in Play
While he was able to produce a decent average, on the surface, there are obviously red flags galore. The BABIP, which is impossible to expect any catcher to maintain, is just the tip of the iceberg as the strikeout issues he’s previously shown continued:
- 36.8% strikeout rate
- 17.9% SwStr%
- 30.1% O-Swing%
He’s never chased outside the strike zone a significant amount (32.5% for his career), but he’s consistently struggled to make contact in general. It’s against all types of pitches as well, meaning opposing pitchers can attack him in a variety of ways. His “best” Whiff% is a 16.29% mark against hard pitches, with a 20.69% mark against breaking balls and 26.34% on offspeed pitches. That simply doesn’t cut it and with little hope of an improvement the average will ultimately implode.
As noted, regardless of his line drive rate (22.4%) or Hard% (38.6%), there’s no chance he can maintain this type of BABIP. Even his first half mark of .317 is a stretch, which led to a .223 average, as catchers tend to wear down thanks to the beating they take day in and day out behind the plate. Throw in a fly ball approach (45.6% in ’17, 47.6% for his career) and it all comes together for disaster.
Can he continue to hit for some power? Absolutely, but it’s going to come at a great cost. Think of him as a Joey Gallo type, but one that won’t hit as many home runs due to the consistent days of rest. With power growing around the game the negatives of Zunino simply outweigh the good. You can get 15-20 HR from a catcher other places, and it should come with a better average.
With the potential to hit close to .200 and lose playing time, Zunino is a headache better left for someone else.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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