The 2012 draft kicked off with a huge surprise as the Houston Astros shocked the Mocks by picking shortstop Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico BB Academy as the #1 pick. Correa, while just 17 years of age, has been compared to the likes of Troy Tulowitski and none other than Alex Rodriguez. Most draft gurus had slated Mark Appel, a 6-4 195lb RHP, to be the second Stanford alum in less than a month to become the number one pick in their respective sport following, of course, Andrew Luck. Appel slid hard, finally going 8th to the Pirates. Most cited his signability issues related to the fact that he is a Scott Boras client as well as a lackluster strikeout rate.
Minnesota followed as expected with Byron Buxton, a high school OF out of Appling County HS, GA. Buxton has compared to the Upton brothers in terms of potential and athleticism. This left the Seattle Mariners, who had been rumored to be intently focused on Correa, with quite a conundrum. Should they add yet another hurler to their stable of big time pitching prospects which now includes Danny Hultzen, the #2 overall pick from the 2011 draft, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton who are all dealing in AA and are expected to reach the show in the next 12 months or do they place their bets on Mike Zunino, a great defensive power hitting catcher out of the University of Florida?
While they currently are utilizing Jesus Montero, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda trade, as catcher on a part time basis, there are still significant doubts that Montero will ever evolve into a full time receiver. Thus a potential need certainly existed for a catcher and the tremendous defensive and game calling skills that happen to be Zunino’s calling card definately fit the bill. However, Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners GM, has always wisely contended that drafting for need is never a consideration. Thus, Mariner fans should rejoice and take great solace in the fact that theMariner’s choice of Zunino signified that they truly believe that he was a better prospect than any amateur pitcher in the entire country.
Head amateur scout, Tom McNamara, weighed in “Mike is a sturdy, blue-collar, talented defensive receiver with extra-base offensive potential, he is a winning player, and will be a good fit with the Mariners. We look forward to having him in our organization and working his way towards being part of our Major League club in the future.”
While there were some concerns about Zunino’s relatively anemic batting average of just .255 in SEC play this season, the fact that he hit a combined 37 HRs in his sophomore and junior years leave little doubt about his power potential. If all goes well, there is a good chance that Zunino could make his major league debut in 2013 and be one of the centerpieces of a solid young core vying for the playoffs in 2014. Not to mention, the more superstitious Mariner fans would cite the fact that he is a proud graduate of Mariner High School in South Florida certainly doesn’t hurt his chances to finally help lead this team to the World Series.