Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino has been playing well lately, hitting the ball much better after tweaking his mechanics at the urging of new hitting coach Edgar Martinez. Whatever. It’s a nice sign for a team that will take anything in the way of bright spots, but it doesn’t change the fact that the M’s probably aren’t getting as much out of Zunino as they would have had they not messed with his development.
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A first-round pick with incredible upside, the M’s rushed Zunino through the minors just about as quickly as they possibly could’ve. He was promoted to AAA after what amounted to several weeks’ worth of success in AA, and then spent a month or so toiling in Tacoma before getting the call to join the big league squad, where he has since struggled to hit much of anything. Disaster! And the Mariners are doing it all over again.
D.J. Peterson was a first round pick in 2013, the year after the Mariners selected Zunino. Like Zunino, he was projected as a power bat, the kind of guy who surely couldn’t be too far away from helping a major league team win games. He raked in high A to start 2014, earning a promotion to AA where he continued to mash. The team started him at Jackson again this year, but his season has been a nightmare so far. No matter! Because they just rewarded his stunning failure with a promotion to Tacoma:
Peterson is going to be a Rainier now after failing to cut it as a Jackson General over his last 393 trips to the plate. He wasn’t just “bad” – he’s been .221/.288/.344 bad, and that’s as a corner infielder with no real defensive value. That line shouldn’t even be within the realm of possibility for a top hitting prospect. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be rewarded.
Inconsequential third baseman Zach Shank was sent down to make room for Peterson, but that hardly addresses the current roster situation in Tacoma. Even while making room for Peterson, there really is no room for Peterson – this team still has Jesus Montero, Patrick Kievlehan, Ji-Man Choi, Leury Bonilla, and Carlos Rivero. All of those guys fit best at either first or third, which are where the M’s would like Peterson to end up.
Maybe this move made sense back when Choi was on the DL and Montero was in Seattle. But Montero is back with Tacoma now, and he’s probably been the PCL’s best first baseman this season. Choi will be back soon, and then it’s third or bust for Peterson. Kievlehan can be moved around, so maybe there’s some playing time to be had. But this is a guy who had a 79 wRC+ in AA this year. And now his job is to… out-hit and steal time from the Rainiers’ best players?
It’s a rush job. Just another case of the M’s taking a valuable asset and telling it to hurry up. They’ve done this many times before, but no more notably than with Zunino. AA to AAA isn’t quite as big of a jump as is AAA to the majors, but it’s still a plenty huge leap. Note that Zunino had a 96 wRC+ in Tacoma when he was promoted to Seattle, meaning that he was at least an almost-average hitter in the PCL. Peterson was hitting like a glove-first shortstop when the M’s gave him the bump.
It seems that the Mariners simply got tired of waiting to see if Peterson would ever hit AA pitching again, and thus decided the best way to find out was to see what he could do against the next-highest level. On a crowded roster where he really has no place to play. It’s a nightmare scenario. Just give the guy some time to develop! Didn’t you learn from having juuuuuust made this exact mistake?
So you’ve noticed that Zunino only had 505 MiLB plate appearances versus the 1,239 Peterson has accrued. Maybe you want to give the Mariners some credit for that, and so sure, go right ahead and give them some credit. Peterson is hitting 20% worse than Zunino was before each of their respective promotions! That should take care of that credit we just tried to give the team, and teach us a further lesson against giving them such credit in the future.
Jack Zduriencik has no idea what he’s doing. He’s as overmatched as any executive this side of Ruben Amaro, and today he decided to make a puzzling and potentially harmful decision regarding one of the franchise’s most prized hitting prospects. You want to know why M’s prospects always bust when they get to the major leagues? It’s because they don’t get the chance to develop like minor leaguers in the other 29 systems. The only hope for kids coming up through the Mariners’ farm system is that they’ll be traded away so that the most developmentally important years of their career aren’t spent being yo-yo’d around by a bumbling, incompetent group of executives who really shouldn’t have been here in the first place.