I've never played catcher, but I always thought that the footwork was more important than the release on the throw. Catchers have to shift from their squat position to the throw position very quickly, and if you can do that, you should be able to throw out a lot of would-be basestealers. This is the current criticism on Montero, in fact, who is described as having poor footwork. I haven't heard anybody say that Zunino's release is slow or that his arm isn't strong, so I don't know. BroFox's stat seems to indicate he's doing things right with regard to shutting down run games, tho.
What I HAVE been hearing on Zunino is that he is having a harder time adjusting to passed balls and blocking and handling wild pitches. This might just be unfamiliarity with the level of pitching quality he's seeing, so I'm not worried about that yet.
"This might just be unfamiliarity with the level of pitching quality he's seeing, so I'm not worried about that yet."
That seems likely. Guys with just a fastball and middling secondary pitches can survive against college amateurs. When you get to the professional level, the arsenals expand and the "stuff" gets nastier. I always refer back to catchers' descriptions of receiving Felix's pitches; that takes a high level of concentration and lightning-quick adjustments because the backstop can't know where the ball is going to end up with all the break and twist on the King's pitches. Of course, few pitchers can match the nasty factor of King Felix's stuff, but the closer to it a pitcher gets, the higher he's likely to rise in the pro leagues.
Worst-case scenario -- Zunino is an Olivo: bad blocking skills and good at throwing out runners. Hopefully, the case isn't that dire. He has time to learn.
He'll be a lot better than Olivo if he stays healthy. He hits for a high average, something Olivo did once in eleven seasons.
Edit: I should add that Zunino could flounder against ML pitching, so I did overstate the case for his future. But, what the heck...I'm HOPING he'll keep his average up as he advances through the system.
I don't know if any or most have seen him play in person. I've been told on Twitter by Rick Randall at Scout.com and hearing Gordon Grossmans interview from Baseball Prospectus that Zunino just needs more time to improve his defense to the MLB level just an adjustment period. It's believed his ability could top out at Buster Posey similarities when he's fully matured.
I don't expect him to start out being an All-Star catcher in his 1st or 2nd year. Of course things can change if he has a setback or injury.
At worst he'll still be a better catcher than anyone we had last year and 2013.
Seen a couple games on TV though. He didn't make any mistakes during those games.
Unfortunately living in SoCal doesn't allow me to catch the Mariners minor league games. I was hoping he'd make a quick stop in high desert only 2-3 hours north. Fortunately Spring training is only a 1/2 day drive away.
I saw him 3 games in Everett (and one game In Spokane, my first game in Spokane actually)
Footwork seemed fine, but yeah, little odd with the throw (of the two things its the least worry some)...I dont remember if he seem to lean away to the side, or to much back as he stood up...I do remember like it was a bit slow...but he was dynamite at the plate, and its what everyone has on the front of their mind.
I didnt go there to analyze Zunino, so I probably wasnt paying enough attentions to the details of his throws....but it was a little slow. (that part I remember, because I had asked a friend in Spokane if that was a problem...but assured me, footwork is better to have down, other stuff he can fix quicker)
The only thing I remember was the Dingers! and it seemed no one could get him out.