Mike Zuanich posted some truly inc..."/> Mike Zuanich posted some truly inc..."/>

Zuanich Promoted to Less Friendly Confines

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Rockies first base prospect Mike Zuanich posted some truly incredible numbers in High-A this year. Zuanich hit .366/.455/.674, bashing fourteen home runs and 23 doubles.

If you’ve never heard of Zuanich, despite those numbers, there’s good reasons why. And now is his chance to change that.

There’s a lot going against Zuanich in terms of his prospect status. He’s a big first baseman who’s athletic enough to at least try playing the corner outfield spots, but certainly isn’t going to become much of a defensive player there, so he pretty much has to put up an OPS north of .800 in the big leagues to project as a useful player.

Of course, his numbers from this season do point to him being able to do some significant damage with his bat, but there are two big strikes against even that: he’s already about to turn 25, and those numbers came in the notoriously hitter-friendly California League.

Now, to the second point, Zuanich is obviously in an organization that boasts very hitter-friendly parks at nearly all of its stops, including, of course, Coors Field. But the Cal League also boasts very hitter-friendly away parks, something which certainly doesn’t describe the home stadiums of many of the National League’s teams.

Before even worrying about Petco Park, though, Zuanich needs to concern himself with solving Double-A pitching, as he was promoted to the level earlier this week.

It’s worth noting that Zuanich has a history of hitting–he hit .357/.457/.665 in 2009 and .333/.417/.472 last season–but it’s telling that the Rockies still had him spend 2 1/2 years in A-ball even with this sort of production.

In any case, Double-A is the level where many of these low-minors (and especially ex-Cal League) batting titans either wash out or prove themselves. If Zuanich can keep crushing the ball with Double-A Tulsa (he’s 2-for-6 with no extra-base hits and one strikeout in two games thus far), then that probably means that the pinball-machine environment of Triple-A Colorado Springs won’t pose much of a challenge to him whenever he gets promoted there.

The Rockies are committed to Todd Helton at first base through 2013, and Zuanich will open the 2014 season as a 27-year-old, so chances are that continued success from the young slugger will mean he’ll be moved somewhere–either to the outfield for Colorado, or to another team via a trade, the Rule 5 Draft, or minor league free agency.

But until then, it’s time for Zuanich to prove he can swing with the big boys in the upper minors. It’ll be interesting to see if this very unheralded but statistically monstrous prospect proves he’s for real or just a park-effect mirage.