Based on ZiPS projections, Mike Zunino is expected to finish 2023 with the following stats:
86 G, 286 PA, 18 HR, 0 SB, 7.7% BB%, 35.0% K%, .201/.273/.456, 105 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR
Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Covering the Corner Discord.
Chris D. Davies’s prediction: OVER
Here’s what I am certain of: When Mike Zunino is healthy, he is good.
Another thing I know: When Mike Zunino is hurt, he is not good. Unfortunately, Zunino seems to be hurt a fair amount. Over the last seven seasons, Zunino has logged 123, 375, 84, 289, 405, 435, and 192 plate appearances. The four times he has crossed 300 PA he’s accumulated 11.2 fWAR; in seasons he has not, his fWAR is 2.0.
So, the question of whether Zunino will go over or under his ZiPS projections is more of a question of whether Zunino will be healthy in 2023. Spoiler: I have no earthly idea what the answer to that question is.
I have clues, however. While it’s not quite “best shape of his life,” in a story on Zunino starting the spring training opener, Paul Hoynes quotes the catcher himself saying, “I’m feeling good, feeling healthy.“Now it’s just about building reps and getting back to where I want to be for a season of 162 games.” In that piece, Hoynes also quotes manager Terry Francona with the expectation Zunino will receive the most playing time at catcher of anyone in camp.
I’m not here to rain on that parade. In a peer-reviewed article from The Physician and Sportsmedicine, baseball players who returned from thoracic outlet surgery (as Zunino is doing) “return[ed] at a similar functional level.” Thus, I think the 300+ PA version of him is within reach for the coming season.
Even that version of Zunino is not perfect, of course. Rule changes might affect him, particularly with regard to throwing out base stealers (which I think he’ll do less of, as will most catchers), and even at his best he’s still going to strike out a lot. But I think his framing will remain above average (he was eighth in Baseball Prospectus’ framing runs in 2021), he’ll walk at a good rate, and perhaps he’ll get a boost from fewer shifts (he hits to the pull-side half the time). So, if these balance out (fewer caught stealing and lots of K, but closer to 9% BB% and hits between defenders), then the biggest factor would be, of course, staying healthy and getting plate appearances.
I’m on the over, baby, because:
Will Mike Zunino finish with an fWAR over or under 2.3?
This poll is closed
Monday’s player: Sam Hentges