OMAHA, NE - JUNE 28: Peter Mooney #6 of the South Carolina Gamecocks scores a run in front of Mike Zunino #3 of the Florida Gators during game 2 of the men's 2011 NCAA College Baseball World Series at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on June 28, 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
So I thought I was done doing draft profiles for your sake and mine, but David tapped me with doing one more, Mike Zunino. Why? Because I've been one of his biggest supporters for the first pick. I like his power, I like his work behind the plate, I like his leadership, there's a lot to like. When college baseball instituted the new bats Zunino went out and hit 19 homeruns his sophmore year.
This year he's approaching that number again. A good showing in the college playoffs and he could end up with similar numbers. Behind the plate: he receives the ball well, giving the pitcher a good target; calls his own game, rare for a college catcher; and is sound defensively with the potential to be plus.
So why isn't he the sure fire first pick in the draft? His walk rate and strikeout rates are a concern. Also, as Keith Law points out, his offensive splits against non-conference and conference play are a bit concerning. He's mashing against non-conference opponents, but struggling against SEC conference opponents. For those unfamiliar with college baseball SEC is considered one of the better conferences. Struggling against stronger competition raises some concerns about his offense going forward.
Still, he's considered a top five pick, the top catcher and the top position player in the draft, although, he may be on the outside looking in regarding the number one pick.
Backup Major League catcher. The other day we got into a bit of a discussion revolving around the idea of Zunino having possibly a Chris Snyder type of floor. A solid defensive catcher with a little bit of power.
OremLK brought up an interesting comp, Brian McCann. He didn't say McCann outright, but a poor man's McCann. Looking at his numbers I could see that with lesser walk rate.
Projected Draft Round
First all the way. He'll be selected in the first several picks.
Will He Sign?
Highly likely, in a weak draft I don't know that one more year in college is going to improve his stock significantly.
Bibliography, Gifs and videos after the jump.
Mike Zunino cranks a two-run shot against South Carolina in the SEC tournament.
Potential plus defender with receiving, throwing and leadership ability. Should be a standout defender long term. Has excellent feel for hitting and a good concept of the strike zone. Makes easy hard contact and has started to use the whole field better. Will need minimal adjustments to hit as a pro and should hit right out of the gate. Power has some projection though I see him as more of a big doubles hitter with average home run pop. Star potential that contributes in every facet on the field and is a leader off the field.
His swing isn't entirely conventional, but it works. He has a slight drift but keeps his weight back enough to drive the ball; his real asset at the plate is his hands, strong and quick, giving him the ability to go to all fields, and, combined with good leverage from proper hip rotation, at least future-average power with wood bats. He's an adequate receiver and has done fine catching a staff with a lot of big-league caliber arms on it, including working on calling his own games. His weakest tool is his throwing arm, just average arm strength with a somewhat slow release that has kept his pop times generally over 2 seconds; I don't think he'll ever have to move, but he's unlikely to be plus back there.
Zunino is the best catcher in this Draft class and he has the potential to be a very good everyday big league backstop. While he does have a bit of a long swing and can struggle with offspeed stuff at times, he has bat speed and loft, meaning he should have plenty of future power. With some more consistency with his swing, he could be a middle of the order bat. Behind the plate, he's a natural leader who can run a pitching staff. Zunino has a very good and accurate arm, good hands and agility, giving him a a package of plus catch and throw skills.