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So if this Jesus Montero thing doesn't work out ...

Christian Petersen

So I was looking up Buster Posey the other day for some reason, and happened to notice that Buster Posey once won the Johnny Bench Award.

Which of course me wonder what the Johnny Bench Award is, and who else won it.

The first thing I noticed is that winning the Johnny Bench Award -- by the way, it's been given to the top college catcher every year since 2000, even though Johnny Bench never went to college -- does not guarantee professional success; more than half the winners haven't reached the majors, and most haven't been real prospects. Which I think merely points to the difficulty of playing professional baseball.

I also noticed that Jeremy Brown was the third winner, in 2002. You remember him, I'm sure.

Other winners you've heard of: Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko, Kurt Suzuki, and Jeff Clement.

The 2010 winner, Bryan Holaday, actually got into a few games with the Tigers last season, but has never hit much as a pro and ranks as a Grade C prospect.

The 2011 winner, Jake Lowery, was a fourth-round draft pick for the Indians, but seems to have hit a wall in Class A last season. Almost 23 now, he's still a prospect but just barely.

The 2012 winner, though ... now there we've got something. The University of Florida's Mike Zunino went to the Mariners last summer with the third pick in the whole amateur draft, then cut through the Northwest and Southern Leagues like a buzz saw, with 13 homers in 44 games. He opened this season with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, and in six games he's driven home 17 runs.


Granted, Zunino's played in exactly 50 minor-league games, so skepticism must be maintained. But when you use the third pick in the draft on a 21-year-old hitter, you want and expect him to move quickly. And by all accounts Zunino's a decent enough fielder.

Oh, there's just one problem: The major-league Mariners don't have anywhere for Zunino to play. They got like six Designated Hitters and First Basemen last winter, which means if catcher Jesus Montero is going to play, Jesus Montero has to catch.

It's becoming to seem that Mike Zunino is flat better than Jesus Montero. But considering how much organizational capital the Mariners have invested in Montero, it seems likely that Zunino will get at least a few more weeks down in the City of Destiny. Even while he seems destined to take Montero's job before the All-Star break.

For more about Zunino and the M's, please visit SB Nation's Lookout Landing.

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