Seattle Mariners Hitting Prospects: Zunino Zooms to Top of List


The S2S STAT-Scan was actually invented to analyze Seattle Mariners prospects.  And it did pick out Michael Saunders as a likely MLB success story.  And, rest assured, our retroactive applications correctly indicated the long, long drought of home-grown hitters in the Seattle organization (absent Adam Jones and Shin-Soo Choo — traded away, of course).

Mike Zunino

could be a hitting and catching star in Seattle after blowing away our statistical categories in 2012. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

But the situation is a lot different now.  Indeed, the Mariners are virtually overflowing with young hitters on the way up (and young arms, too).

In our S2S STAT-Scans, each player is assigned a “Plate Skills Index,” which is based on the ability to “win plate appearances” (described in detail here), a “Production Index,” based on the ability to produce offense (described in detail here), and a “Composite Index,” which is a combination of the two.  Additional detail on “the three numbers,” with some examples, can be found here.

It is important to remember that age, level and position also factor into the analysis.  And note that this is a statistical analysis of the actual results, so scouting reports don’t factor into the numbers.

Threat Level: Midnight

Mike Zunino, C (S2S Top 115 #20) … 2013 Age: 22, 2012 Level: Short Season-A, AA

Plate Skills: 184  Production: 152  Composite: 236

Drafted No. 3 overall out of Florida, Zunino stepped into pro ball without a hitch … and that’s an understatement.  Even though many of his stats were from the short-season Northwest League, Zunino kept up his torrid pace in AA Jackson and in the Arizona Fall League.

Zunino not only showed long-ball power, but he drew a ton of walks (12.1%) and kept a low strikeout rate (17.4%).  And he was strong behind the plate as well, throwing out 43% of baserunners, and showing leadership skills.

High Alert

Brad Miller, SS … 2013 Age: 23; 2012 Level: High-A, AA

Plate Skills: 118  Production: 110  Composite: 128

The Mariners brass seems convinced that Miller can play short, since he played there every time he trotted on the field (134 games).  But the Clemson alum put up numbers that work at any position: .334/.410/.512.  His home-run totals may have been inflated in the hitting-friendly California League, but he did have four more in 40 games after promotion to AA.  But Miller doesn’t need dingers: right now he’s looking like a middle-infield version of former Mariner John Olerud (tons of doubles and walks).

Nick Franklin, SS/2b (S2S Top 115 #94)  … 2013 Age: 22; 2012 Level: AA, AAA

Plate Skills: 89  Production: 99  Composite: 88

The competition between Miller and Franklin will be interesting to watch, especially since the M’s already have Dustin Ackley at second, and Kyle Seager, another young player with similar skills, at third.  Switch-hitting Franklin profiles with more power than Miller (at least from the left side), and less likely to draw walks, but his overall totals have suffered to due weak splits hitting right-handed.  He played a lot of 2b, but the club has not ruled him out as a shortstop in the majors.

On the Radar

Stefen Romero, 2b … 2013 Age: 24; 2012 Level: High-A, AA

Plate Skills: 97  Production: 127  Composite: 124

Romero burst on to the scene in 2012 with a .599 SLG while playing second base.  As a big, athletic guy, he isn’t likely to end up in the middle infield given all the other guys competing for those spots, but, if his development continues, he could be a candidate to supplant Seager at third.

Jack Marder, 2b/C/OF … 2013 Age: 23; 2012 Level: High-A

Plate Skills: 100  Production: 120  Composite: 120

Versatile Marder battled injuries, and got a boost from the offense-friendly California League, but his final line of .360/.425/.583 can’t help but get noticed.  He kept his strikeout rate micro-low (13.8%), and his ability to play all over the diamond could be setting him up as a very valuable bench player.

Distant Early Warning

Gabriel Guerrero, OF … 2013 Age: 19; 2012 Level: Rookie

Plate Skills: 116  Production: 126  Composite: 142

Guerrero is the nephew of former MLB star Vladimir, and if he grows into a Vlad body, then watch out.  Guerrero dominated his fellow Dominican teens, and then, after coming stateside, banged out four homers in just 18 games in Arizona rookie ball.

Timmy Lopes, 2b/SS … 2013 Age: 19; 2012 Level: Rookie, High-A

Plate Skills: 105  Production: 109  Composite: 113

California teen Lopes collected an astounding 13 triples in 57 games, while also putting up a .375 OBP.  The team seems to have him slotted as a second baseman.  (As in: yet another 2b who can hit.)

On the Whole

The Mariners have even more guys who didn’t make this list, but who have a decent shot at MLB success, including hot-hitting but oft-injured outfielder Julio Morban and sweet-swinging first baseman Ji-Man Choi, so it’s clear that the Mariner organization has been adding plenty of talent since the Jack Zduriencik  era began.