Few things are more dangerous to a baseball organization than a general manager desperately trying to save his job, and if there's a list of GMs on the hot seat, Jack Zduriencik is probably on it. With Seattle sitting at 28-37 — 11 games out of first place in the AL West, 10 games out of a wild card spot, and carrying the AL's second-worst run differential — it appears Zduriencik is going into panic mode, calling up top catching prospect Mike Zunino.
The Mariners have had a hard time getting any production out of their catchers — as a whole, FanGraphs has the unit combining for 0.1 WAR. Kelly Shoppach has seen a majority of the playing time since Jesus Montero was sent back to Tacoma, and he's currently carrying a .202/.300/.356 line. Baseball America named Zunino Seattle's best prospect heading into this season, and the 0.1 WAR from M's catchers means "anyone would be an improvement" might actually be true, but there's one problem: almost everyone seems to agree Zunino isn't ready for the majors.
This time last year, Zunino was fresh off being the third overall pick in the draft. He was always pegged as the most polished and closest-to-ready hitter in the class, and his first year of pro ball seemed to back that up: he hit .373/.474/.736 in 29 games in Low-A last year, then hit .333/.386/.588 in 15 games after being promoted to Double-A.
This year has been a different story: in 47 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Zunino has a line of just .238/.303/.503. He's hit 11 home runs in 208 plate appearances, but has struck out 59 times, walking just 14 times. Now, after just 91 professional games and barely 200 plate appearances above Double-A, Zunino is being charged with jump-starting another putrid M's offense.
It's entirely possible Zunino comes up and breaks out of whatever funk he was in, but Seattle has a long history of rushing their top prospects and seeing them fail under Jack Z — Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Montero, to name a few. We'll see if sabermetrics end up ruining him, too, but if Zunino does end up failing, it may just be in the final nail in Jack Z's coffin.