BRADENTON, Fla. – A year after his big breakout season, Oddy Nunez continues to show some promise.
The 6′ 8″ lefty has pitched in two games so far this year in his jump to Bradenton, although the early outings have been unconventional. His first start saw a long rain delay which limited him to one inning of work. The second start began in the second inning, pitching behind A.J. Schugel, who was making a rehab appearance.
The combined effort has seen him giving up one earned run in six innings, with six hits, one walk, and two strikeouts. It’s not enough to say that he’s going to handle the Florida State League with as much ease as he handled the South Atlantic League last year. But seeing Nunez in Spring Training, and seeing him briefly this year, he continues to look promising.
“Oddy has good angle,” Bradenton manager Gera Alvarez said of his stuff. “His ball moves, it’s all over the place. Determination when I see him pitch. Demeanor when I see him pitch. It’s exciting. He pounds the zone and he competes. I love that.”
Nunez is an extremely big pitcher, with 230 pounds on his tall frame. What I find interesting is the deception he has with his fastball. He hides the ball behind his head during his delivery, then drops his arm down a bit while he’s throwing, before going to a fully extended three-quarters delivery. That deception, plus the angle he creates with his pitches, plus low-90s velocity with the chance to touch higher, makes him very difficult to hit.
“I always say funky stuff plays,” Alvarez said. “He’s a little funky. His arm action is not over the top, it looks like it drops down a little bit. Just the fact that his ball moves and he’s so tall and he creates that angle. So you’ve got angle with movement, which makes it hard to hit.”
The fastball leads to a lot of soft contact and ground balls for Nunez. He had a 58% ground ball rate last year. He continued that trend last night in a big way, getting 15 ground balls out of the 20 balls put in play.
One thing he’s going to have to work on this year will be the secondary stuff. He’s been fastball heavy in the past, but will need to work on his changeup and slider. Both pitches have a lot of movement, and the changeup is ahead of the slider at this point. He’ll need to develop the slider as an out pitch in order to have a better shot at being a starter in the future.
Nunez made the jump last year to being a prospect, in large part due to his added velocity helping his fastball play up. He could make a jump up the prospect rankings this year with better secondary stuff. Even without that, the fastball gives him a better chance of reaching the majors than most lower-level pitchers. But if he wants to have a shot at being a starter, finding a breaking pitch will be essential.