Mike Zunino
Mike Zunino
28-Year-Old CatcherC
Tampa Bay Rays
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Tampa Bay acquired Zunino from Seattle early in the offseason. He grades out well according to most fielding metrics, meshing well with the Rays' defense- and pitching-minded philosophy. Offensively, Zunino offers plus power but little else. He's fanned in at least one-third of his plate appearances since becoming a regular in 2014. He's durable for a backstop, playing in at least 112 games four of the last five seasons. In three of those years, he's smashed at least 20 homers. It's apparent 2017 is an outlier in terms of average as Zunino hasn't come close to the .251 mark posted that season. Tampa generally plays its lead catcher a lot so expect similar numbers to those he put up with the Mariners: Mario Mendoza with 20-something homers. If you can absorb the low average, Zunino will be a fantasy asset in all formats, though low walks hurt in OBP and points leagues. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a one-year, $4.41 million contract with the Rays in January of 2019, avoiding arbitration.
Maintaining power surge
CTampa Bay Rays
March 14, 2019
Zunino went 1-for-3 with a three-run homer Thursday against the Phillies.
Zunino launched a three-run blast over the fence in left during the fifth inning, accounting for the Rays' entire offense Thursday afternoon. The 27-year-old catcher is now 8-for-28 with three home runs, eight RBI and five runs in spring games.
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Batting Stats
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Left/Right Batting Splits
Since 2016
Since 2016vs Left .732 283 32 17 23 1 .203 .293 .438
Since 2016vs Right .774 749 73 40 116 0 .230 .303 .471
2018vs Left .575 129 12 6 7 0 .167 .225 .350
2018vs Right .714 276 25 14 37 0 .217 .275 .439
2017vs Left .883 102 16 8 10 1 .253 .333 .549
2017vs Right .827 333 36 17 54 0 .250 .330 .497
2016vs Left .835 52 4 3 6 0 .200 .385 .450
2016vs Right .769 140 12 9 25 0 .210 .293 .476
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Home/Away Batting Splits
Since 2016
OPS on Road
OPS on Road
OPS on Road
OPS at Home
Since 2016Home .744 495 54 28 65 0 .214 .295 .449
Since 2016Away .780 537 51 29 74 1 .231 .305 .474
2018Home .563 188 15 5 13 0 .185 .239 .324
2018Away .761 217 22 15 31 0 .215 .276 .485
2017Home .832 213 29 14 32 0 .235 .324 .508
2017Away .848 222 23 11 32 1 .265 .338 .510
2016Home .923 94 10 9 20 0 .228 .340 .582
2016Away .661 98 6 3 11 0 .188 .296 .365
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Stat Review
How does Mike Zunino compare to other hitters?
This section compares his stats with all batting seasons from the previous three seasons (minimum 400 plate appearances). The bar represents the player's percentile rank. For example, if the bar is halfway across, then the player falls into the 50th percentile for that stat and it would be considered average.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
The good news is Zunino shattered his career best slash line, hitting .251/.331/.509 with 25 homers last season. The bad news is he whiffed even more than usual, setting a new low in terms of contact. The safe play is to expect BABIP regression, but will Zunino land closer to his 2017 campaign or his usual flirtation with the Mendoza Line? Since Zunino was among the league leader in barrels for the second straight season, it's plausible he figured something out, and while he still struggles to make contact, when bat meets ball it's usually squared up. Still, anyone who whiffs that much is a candidate for a long slump. Splitting the difference seems fair. Zunino's defense isn't Gold Glove caliber, but it's not a liability. Based on that, and his established power, Zunino deserves regular at-bats, thus he is draft-worthy in all formats except points leagues penalizing for strikeouts. Just be prepared for the possibility that 2017 is a complete outlier in terms of average.
Zunino's career .195 batting average, 32.4 percent strikeout rate and 16.6 percent swinging-strike rate clearly paint him as a hacker. He finally proved in 2016, however, that he can tap into the home-run upside many have been yearning for from his bat for years - along with a bit of gravy in his 10.9 percent walk rate. This progression resembled the 10.7 percent free-pass rate he showed at Triple-A last season. Of course, that happened in his third stint at the highest farm level -- so it's not entirely surprising that he conquered it. He will still whiff frequently at major-league breaking balls. Even with his flaws, however, he still carries some intrigue. Carlos Ruiz's backup duty aside, Zunino may remain the priority for playing time. Landing a backstop on the cheap with a difference-making skill could lead to a useful fantasy profit. Zunino's power fits that bill, but his batting average could cripple a roster.
After Zunino batted .199 with a .658 OPS in 2014, it was obvious he needed more time in the minors to hone his hitting skills. But there he was on Opening Day as the Mariners' starting catcher, and the next five months he caught more innings than any AL backstop other than Salvador Perez, all while flailing away at the plate. When he was finally, mercifully, sent to Triple-A in late August, Zunino's .174 batting average was on pace to be the lowest in the majors since 1892. Among players with at least Zunino's 386 plate appearances, his average ranked eighth-lowest all-time. Thankfully, Zunino will get as much time as he needs in the minors this season, as the Mariners acquired catchers Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger. Zunino has good power when he runs into a fastball, but he has to make better contact (62% last year) and cut his strikeouts - he led MLB with one whiff every 2.92 plate appearances (min 350 PA) - to be an everyday catcher again.
Zunino set a franchise record for home runs by a catcher last season, but it came with a .199 average, the lowest in the majors among catchers with at least 300 at-bats. More than half (44) of Zunino's 87 hits went for extra bases. Yes, Zunino can jump on a major league fastball. It's on breaking and offspeed pitches where his at-bats go to die. Zunino struck out in a third of his plate appearances last season while walking just 3.6% of the time. But he's just 24 and is still developing after being rushed to the big leagues with only 419 minor league plate appearances under his belt. The Mariners like the way he handles the pitching staff, and there is no one around to challenge him for playing time.
Zunino had a rough rookie season. Promoted in June, a broken hand in late July caused him to miss more than month. Zunino is still trying to find his way at the plate, as a steady diet of breaking and offspeed pitches proved to be his nemesis. The Mariners, though, are content to focus most of his attention on his catching for now. The Mariners could bring in a veteran catcher to tutor Zunino this year, but the team is clearly banking on him as the catcher of the future. While the 2012 No. 3 overall pick didn't make quite as big an impact as many expected last season, Zunino will have ample opportunity to make a name for himself this season. Keep an eye on him this spring and into the year – the raw power he showed last year could quickly increase his value for fantasy owners.
The 2012 Golden Spikes Award winner as the nation's top amateur player, Zunino was drafted third overall by the Mariners, who were enamored with his defense. It's been his bat, though, that has turned heads thus far - 13 homers between short-season Everett (1.210 OPS) and Double-A Jacksonville (.974 OPS) in 44 games - while his defense has caused some angst. He was said to have good hands and good agility, but he struggled blocking pitches behind the plate. Nevertheless, after a good showing in the Arizona Fall League with his bat, he goes to spring training with a shot at making the big-league club. The Mariners have only one catcher, Jesus Montero, on the roster after dealing John Jaso in January. And Montero likely will spend time again at DH, making a third catcher necessary. Zunino's bat might be ready, but his catching likely needs more polish, and the Mariners won't be quick to sacrifice essential development time. Triple-A is probably more realistic, though it won't surprise if he makes his way to Seattle at some point this season. Long-term, Zunino is clearly the catcher of the future, which also means Montero is destined for DH/1B duty.
More Fantasy News
Demonstrates power at dish
CTampa Bay Rays
March 10, 2019
Zunino went 2-for-3 with a home run, a double and two RBI in Sunday's spring game against Boston.
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Reaches deal with Rays
CTampa Bay Rays
January 11, 2019
Zunino signed a one-year, $4.4125 deal with the Rays on Friday, avoiding arbitration, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports.
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Heads to Tampa Bay
CTampa Bay Rays
November 8, 2018
The Mariners traded Zunino to the Rays on Thursday along with Guillermo Heredia and Michael Plassmeyer in exchange for Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley.
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Not in Sunday's lineup
CSeattle Mariners
September 30, 2018
Zunino is out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Rangers, Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports.
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Hits bench for series finale
CSeattle Mariners
September 26, 2018
Zunino is not in the lineup Wednesday against the A's.
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