The good news is Mike 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 is hitting .200 (3-for-15) with a solo home run and a walk over seven spring training games. The slugging backstop did log his first extra-base hit of spring when he launched a solo blast to left field off Chris Rusin in the fourth inning of a 3-2 Cactus League loss to the Rockies on Tuesday. While the majority of his other at-bats thus far have mostly been fruitless, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that manager Scott Servais remarked after the game that Zunino's timing at the plate is much improved over the last couple of exhibitions. The 26-year-old smacked a career-high 25 homers last season while also posting personal bests in RBI (64), extra-base hits (50), batting average (.251), OBP (.331) and slugging percentage (.509).
Zunino agreed to a one-year, $2.975 million deal with the Mariners on Thursday, avoiding arbitration, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports. Seattle was able to reach an agreement with Zunino during the catcher's first year of arbitration, which wound up being a good move for both parties. Zunino is coming off a career year at age 26, slashing .251/.331/.509 with 25 home runs and 64 RBI. Although regression is sure to hit the Florida Gator product, Zunino will see a great deal of playing time for the Mariners in 2018 with Mike Marjama and David Freitas as the only other catchers on the club's 40-man roster.
Zunino is out of the lineup Sunday against the Angels. Zunino will finish his season with a .251/.331/.509 line, with each mark being the best of his career. Mike Marjama is starting at catcher and hitting ninth Sunday with Zunino out.
Zunino went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in Friday's loss to the Angels. Zunino is now up to 25 home runs and 160 strikeouts in 387 at-bats this season. He's been a top-seven fantasy earner at the catcher position, but it will be tough to project him for a repeat of his .251 average next year, even with his strong batted-ball profile.
Zunino is not in the lineup for Wednesday's matchup against Oakland. Zunino has started four consecutive games behind the dish for the Mariners. In that time he's gone 4-for-13 (.308), hit a home run and drawn three walks. He'll get the day off while Mike Marjama makes his MLB debut behind the dish.