First Pitch: One Hitter Stepping Up in the Draft

The third weekend of the college baseball season was just completed. Heading in to the 2012 season a lot of focus from Pirates fans was on power hitting outfielder Victor Roache. Roache broke his wrist last weekend, and is out for the season.

In his place another hitter has emerged: Florida catcher Mike Zunino.

Zunino is a two way catcher with good defense, but the most impressive thing this year has been what he’s done with the bat. He’s coming off a weekend where he went 6-for-15 with three doubles and a home run. On the season he has a .415/.489/.634 line in 41 at-bats, with three homers and a 6:6 K/BB ratio.

He had a big season last year, with 19 homers and an OPS over 1.100. That made him a top five prospect heading in to the year. The Pirates pick eighth overall, so he might not make it to them, especially if he continues this pace.

If Zunino did drop to the Pirates, he’d be an obvious choice. The system is thin on two-way catching depth. Tony Sanchez represents the only true option. Regardless of how you feel about Sanchez, it’s never good to settle on just one option when prospects are concerned. The worst case scenario that could come from adding another catcher is that you’re one day stuck with multiple talented two-way catchers in the majors. Sounds like a nightmare.

As the 2012 season has been getting underway, I’ve been thinking about my “Elite Eight” — the eight players who I would absolutely take in the first round if they were available at eighth overall. Zunino is one of the names on the list right now. Mark Appel, Lucas Giolito, and Deven Marrero are also on there. I’d probably add Byron Buxton to the list as well.

The downside is that there aren’t eight names yet. That makes it less likely that someone like Zunino would fall to the eighth overall pick at this point in the process. At the moment the Pirates are looking at the group of guys like Kevin Gausman, Trey Williams, and others who are talented enough to go eighth overall, but aren’t slam dunk picks. That could change in the next two months. The ideal situation would be for the draft to be deep enough to get someone like Zunino with the eighth pick.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost their home opener today due to poor defense. Recap is here.

**I got some video of Jameson Taillon throwing a live BP today.

**Injury updates on Josh Harrison and Daniel Cabrera. Not a good start to the season as far as injuries go.

**Rudy Owens is looking to bounce back from his down year in 2011.

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Baseball America has Kyle Zimmer (USanFran) as a candidate for 1-1.  I think he should take a spot in the top 8.

Murray Passarieu

I’m a HUGE Gator fan and I love Zunino and his teammate Preston Tucker.  I doubt Z will fall to 8 either, but I guess we can hope!  He would look great in a Bucs uni for sure.  I’m still hoping Tony can turn it around because I like him too!

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