When former Florida catcher Mike Zunino was drafted third overall in last June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, it was assumed he would make it to the big leagues eventually.
Few could envision it happening this quickly.
After one year and six days, Zunino rocketed through the Seattle Mariners’ minor league system and was called up to the majors on Tuesday.
Zunino made his MLB debut Wednesday night, starting at No. 6 in the batting order in Seattle’s home matchup against the Houston Astros.
The only other catcher on the Mariners’ depth chart is Kelly Shoppach.
“I don’t think I could have pictured this a year ago, that this is where I’d be,” Zunino told Greg Johns of MLB.com. “It’s exceeded everything I’ve ever dreamed of. So I’ll just embrace it and take it as it comes.”
Zunino was brought up for necessity. The Mariners have had a revolving door at catcher this season.
Jesus Sucre fractured his hand after being hit by a bat June 4 and was placed on the 15-day DL. Sucre appeared in eight games for Seattle.
One-time top prospect Jesus Montero is also injured, and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after tearing his meniscus. Montero was recently demoted to Triple-A Tacoma after tallying a .208 batting average and three home runs in 29 games. He may face suspension thanks to his alleged involvement with a Miami Biogenesis clinic.
The veteran Shoppach has appeared in 35 games behind the plate for the Mariners with less than stellar results, hitting .196 and only .056 with runners in scoring position.
Brandon Bantz was called up on June 5 and was designated for assignment less than a week later on June 11. In one game, he went 0 for 2 at the plate.
With Bantz off of the major league roster and a catching platoon in turmoil, Seattle called up Zunino because it did not have many other options.
He came into professional baseball as a highly touted prospect, winning the Dick Howser Trophy, Golden Spikes Award and Johnny Bench Award in his junior year. At Florida, Zunino was also a two-time All-American..
He is now the sixth player from the 2012 draft to make it to the Major League level.
Prior to his call-up on Tuesday, Zunino was hitting .238 with 43 RBIs and 11 home runs for Triple-A Tacoma.
“He’s a mature kid,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We were all impressed with what he did in spring training. But I don’t think anybody here is expecting miracles. We’re not looking like he’s the answer. We’re just looking as we put this together and where we’re at right now, we know he’s going to be a guy that is counted on going forward, and it’s the right thing to do at this time for him. So we’ll bring him up here, give him a chance to play and see how it works out.”