Updated 5:30 p.m.: The roster move is official, Zunino has been called up and Brandon Bantz has been designated for assignment.
The reports started leaking out this morning. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times confirmed it through a source close to the situation and now a source in the Mariners organization has confirmed that last year's top draft pick - catcher Mike Zunino - is being called up today.
Zunino was in Las Vegas with the Tacoma Rainiers. He's catching a morning flight to Seattle.
The corresponding roster move isn't certain, but Zunino will need to be added to the 40-man roster.
The move is somewhat surprising, considering the Mariners didn't call him up a week ago instead of Bantz. Beyond the questions of Super 2 status and wasting a Triple A option year, the largest question looms: "Is Zunino ready, or is he being rushed?"
A year ago at this time, Zunino was preparing to play in the College World Series with the University of Florida. But it seems as though with the injury to Jesus Sucre that Mariners Eric Wedge simply isn't willing to go forward with Brandon Bantz being his only alternative to Kelly Shoppach at catcher. And really, the Mariners don't have a lot of options.
This season Zunino has shown flashes of brilliance while also exhibiting the inconsistency of a player with minimal professional experience.
He's hitting .238 (44-for-185) with 11 homers and 43 RBI. But he's struck out 59 times and walked just 14 times. But he does have power and potential.
His biggest issues hitting has come with pitchers throwing a ton offspeed and fastballs out of the zone. It's been a period of adjustment for him after starting off at a torrid pace. There are time he looks completely overwhelmed at the Triple A level. But other times he looks like a next level hitter. It's typical of a player with less than 400 professional at-bats.
From a maturity, on-field leadership and defensive standpoint, Zunino will be just fine. The guy can catch. He's strong and takes pride in his defensive ability and calling a game. But it will be interesting how he hits at the highest level.
As far as the idea of somehow doing lasting damage to psyche of Zunino if he struggles, I think it's a little overblown. The kid is is mentally tough. It's one of the qualities that the Mariners liked and praised most when they drafted him. A few struggles aren't going to crush his confidence. If he was that mentally fragile, there is no way he should have been taken with third pick of the draft.
Everything I've heard about Zunino and everything I've observed from watching and interacting with him, tells me that he won't be overwhelmed if and when he does struggle, or if he's sent back to Tacoma.
Then Rainiers manager and current Daren Brown praised Zunino for maintaining his confidence level and his defensive commitment during his hitting struggles.