After missing nearly a month of action due to a strained oblique, the Seattle Mariners will welcome back catcher Mike Zunino for Friday's game against the Texas Rangers. Zunino, the team's everyday catcher, is expected to be an integral part of the team's success as long as he stays healthy.
Last season, Zunino finally experienced a breakout from the "bust" label many applied to him previously. A former first-round selection, Zunino hit a career-best 25 home runs and set career highs in wRC+ (126), wOBA (.355), batting average (.251) and FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (3.6). Overall, Zunino really excelled not just behind the plate as a pitch framer and manager of Seattle's pitchers on the diamond for the Mariners, but his bat stood out as a real difference maker as well.
The return of Zunino is great news for both the Mariners and fantasy owners. While Zunino's skills behind the plate don't matter much for fantasy players, his outstanding power for the position paired with his overall production firmly makes him a top-10 fantasy catcher when healthy. Furthermore, Zunino offers potential upside to surpass his totals from the 2017 season thanks to an improved and healthy Mariners' lineup.
With Dee Gordon, Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager batting in front of Zunino, the opportunity to drive in a lot of runs with singles and doubles alone jumps out. Pair that with his natural power catered to American League ballparks and a respectable on-base percentage, it all rolls into one player who will should be plugged into fantasy lineups on a daily basis in season-long leagues.
Once Zunino is fully back into form and starts hitting at the plate, he'll also become a quality DFS target at a position where we could always use more options to choose from.
In a corresponding move, Seattle created room for Zunino by sending down Mike Marjama. David Freitas will now serve as Seattle's backup catcher.