P2Daily: Malcom Nunez Looking Like More Than a Typical First Base Prospect

Malcom Nunez has been a tough prospect to get a gauge on in his early time in the Pirates system. He has flashed some power potential, but has proven to be more than your typical slugging first base prospect.

The former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand has walked in over 12% of his plate appearances with the Curve, while striking out right around 20% of the time.

He also has five home runs in 25 games with the Curve and has a higher slugging percentage than he did in a much more hitter friendly park/league.

Even then, digging a little deeper at the home/road splits and we already see some of the same things that was going on in his time in Springfield.

At home, Nunez is just 6-for-29 (.206) with just one extra base hit. Away from People Natural Gas Field, the right-handed hitting Nunez is batting .322 (20-for-62) with eight of those hits going for extra bases.

Quite the difference, but yet not quite. Maybe the best thing about Nunez has been his patience at the plate, even at times over the power he’s flashed. He drew walks in each of the first three plate appearances he had on Wednesday and has a 23% walk rate at PNG Field.

Whatever the reason behind the difference in numbers, whether sample size, the pitching staffs he faced or whatever, Nunez is proving to be more than just a power-hitting first base prospect. This gives him value even if he isn’t hitting the ball out of the park.

Cruz, Castro Changing Middle Infield Position For Pirates

When looking throughout the system, one of the clear strengths is the potential depth at the middle infield positions. Oneil Cruz is emerging as one of the most electric players in the entire game, with Liover Peguero and Nick Gonzales as top 100 prospects on most outlets. They even have Ji-Hwan Bae who is wrapping up a strong season in Indianapolis.

As the 2022 season winds down, things are lining up for a potential Opening Day double play combination of Cruz and Rodolfo Castro. There were a few times when tossing aside Castro seemed like it was going to be an easy thing to do. While his batting average in September isn’t ideal, the infielder has been a rare source of power in a lineup desperately in need of it.

We know what Cruz can do, but how dangerous can these two be paired together? They’ve combined for 24 home runs this season, along with 46 extra-base hits and 66 RBI in 123 collective games. The second base and shortstop position combined for just 18 home runs, 87 extra-base hits and 105 RBI over the course of the the entire 2021 season.

This season alone, Pirates’ shortstops and second basemen have recorded the fifth and seventh most home runs among their respective positions in the NL, respectively and a lot of that has to do with Cruz and Castro.

Any one of Peguero, Gonzales and Bae all likely have a higher upside than Castro, but he still brings something to the table that none of them do — power.

Last year the Pirates had Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman as the most common double play combination, who hit a total of nine home runs in 2021 while with Pittsburgh.

That’s certainly quite the difference.

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john.benedict

Castro can’t field, throw and somehow is still learning basics of infield,
positioning, what to do, where to go, where to be etc.
His countless head gaffs, which had to be more than his 11 errors do not show up in the scorebook, well actually they do as they are hidden in the ER of the poor pitchers
Doesn’t hustle 100 % and has been suspended
Hope they are showcasing his bat by the 30 starts in a row,
Too much baggage for one streaky bat

joesolo6181

next year Castro and Cruz should be the keystone combination. If Cruz does not hit then Bae deserves the next chance. The power that C&C can provide could and will be game changing.

leefieux

Gonzo doesn’t have power? Plus, so far, fielding metrics aren’t being kind to Castro.

derekbellstutu

Endy Rodriguez may have a say in the future construction of the infield if the Bucs keep playing him at 2B.

emjayinTN

Excellent write-up, and very glad to see Malcom Nunez blending in well at 1B. The 5 HR in only 91 AB is a HR for every 18.2 AB, and the 14 Walks against only 23 K’s is definitely moving in the right direction for a Pirate 1B. He is also fielding 1.000 in his first 20 games at AA.

Possibly a candidate for the AFL?

Danatural08

Looking a fangraphs for an answer: Castro’s defense has been below average, but his offensive production is above average, so I’d consider him in the DH/ Util rotation role until someone else provides a better option.

IMO, it’s not the worst idea to rotate Hayes, Cruz, Casto & another MI candidate between the DH role next year to keep everyone fresh/healthy.

Also noticing that Kevin Newman has a similar WAR as Cruz this year. Is Newman a guaranteed DFA this offseason? I think he still has value & I’d like to see him kept around, but would also like to see Bae get a shot asap, as well as hoping to see Nick G on the big club next year, so idk.

emjayinTN

Not sure if the Pirates tried to trade Newman at the Aug 2 deadline or before the Aug 31 deadline, but I thought he would have been a good pick-up for a contender. But nothing happened and the only other way to generate interest from contenders would have been to DFA him before either of those deadlines. Again, nothing happened, and he’s heading into Arb Year 2 after the season.

That other MI DH, IMO, would be Bae used as a leadoff.

NMR

DFA’ng Newman would be unconscionable.

He’s an inarguably competent big leaguer, and the only justification for cutting him would be to continue this disastrous strategy of turning the major league club into a farm team for an unprecedented fourth year in a row.

Kevin Newman has earned his roster spot. Time to break the insanity and force the kids to do the same.

1979andCounting

I look at Newman much like a Jordy Mercer. Consummate pros. Definitely a competent big leaguer, with a productive 2022 after a disastrous offensive 2021, but award-winning defensive 2021.

Pirates paid Jordy $4.325M and $6.75M his last 2 arb years, then let him go as a free agent. Different regime, but is Newman worth $3-4 mil for 2023? They can probably get him closer to $3M.

SBRO

Hear, hear. He’s still going to be cheap, probably not even $3M, thanks in part to his modest counting stats. He can field both sides of 2B, and I’m sure he could fake 3B (even played 30 innings there in ’19). If $3M is what it costs to NOT have to put everyone through the next vintage of VanMeter, it’s money well spent.

leefieux

I’m still recovering from the senseless DFA’ing of JVM.

TNBucs

We DFA’d him too soon–he’s 3-6 with two doubles and a HR since joining Indy.

NMR

Whether this is genuine or trolling I love it. 🙂

leefieux

Of course it was genuine. The best blowout pitcher on the staff!!!

NMR

thats the comment

Screenshot 2022-09-15 092154.jpg
Anthony

He’s currently at PEAK wOBA and that effectively translates into below average 😥, good to see that his chase rate has been declining

SBRO

That is just beautiful to behold. Clearly he’s internalized what pitchers are trying to do and adjusting, and even if his contact rates are below average, what he does on contact is so stellar that the right side of the graph is a pretty damn useful player, let alone a SS.

Now, get ready for the counterpunch!

NMR

Two ways I looked at this when I put it together…

-his current heater correlates almost literally 1:1 with BABIP, which isn’t a super sustainable way to go about things.

-his current heater also correlates with a drop in chase rate without a similar drop in the rate he swings at strikes, which absolutely does show the potential for legit adjustment.

Hold on tight fellas!

SBRO

With relatively fewer balls in play from this freak of nature, I would expect his wOBA to track more closely to BABIP than it would for, say, Mr. Newman. Also, since he scorches the ball just about every time he does make contact, I wonder if he’s less susceptible to BABIP luck. I recall pretty recently he hit a 110+ MPH ground ball right through the shift.

We’re dealing with a specimen so many standard deviations from the norm, it makes me question the fundamental relationships we’re used to seeing with mere mortals.

AdministrativeSky236

Also his elite speed will help him out with babip luck

SBRO

Hmm. I can see how it would set a higher floor but don’t immediately see how it might smooth out the bad luck streaks that hitters encounter. But I’m certainly open to the idea!

AdministrativeSky236

Good point, he is more likely to have good luck babip vs bad based on his speed!

clemo83

Its still gotta be tempting for the guy if he can pull that pitch 6″ off the outside edge the plate over the right field fence. If I could do that, I’d swing at that pitch

NMR

lol, I hear you man.

I think that silly golfed HR in the last series of the year was the worst thing that could’ve happened to him. Ted f*ckin Williams couldn’t turn that approach into consistent success, but it’s impossibly tempting for a young dude raw as Cruz remains to try.

AdministrativeSky236

Similar to the ball he hit a mile in spring training at his ankles that everyone loved

redwards60

I am very encouraged by the recent performances of Cruz, Castro, Mitchell, Contreras, and Suwinski. However, there are concerns with all of them, with exception of Contreras who has been consistently good in Pittsburgh. Despite BC foolishly sending him down for a month while we had to endure starts by Wilson, Beede, etc.

Cruz is the only Pirates young position player on the immediate horizon who has a franchise player level ceiling. If he can be more consistent at the plate – cut down on the Ks and get his OBP and average up to respectable levels, he can be the cornerstone piece.

Castro and Suwinski both have great power potential, but they also need to be more consistent at the plate and be more than just a HR or bust kind of hitter. I have concerns with Castro defensively….second base seems to be his best fit.

Mitchell looks like a good young hitter, but like Castro, there are questions about where he can play and not hurt the team defensively. His arm is very suspect. Since good alternatives are non-existent, I would see if he can transition to first base. He has the size.

As for Nunez, I am skeptical because of how he profiles as an all around player – he is slow, lacks range and athleticism, and is a defensive liability. When you are compared athletically to Vogelbach, that isn’t good. Maybe he can become a solid DH piece?

leefieux

Check out Roansy’s BABIP and strand rate, there is some concern.

TNBucs

Castro still has a lot to prove, of course. As you say, his BA in September is worrisome as is his K rate (36%). Maybe he’s selling out for power, maybe pitchers have found a weakness and he’s surviving by hitting their mistakes. Good project for Haines and Shelton…

But I’m a big fan so hope it works out–I’d love to see him by our 2B for the next 5-6 years but with Bae, Gonzeles, Peguero, and Johnson he’ll likely need to be very good to hold onto that spot–he’s not going to keep it by default like has so often been the case in the past.

emjayinTN

For most of the past year I have referred to Ro Castro as our best Utility IF prospect. The better of he and Bae in the MI would be Bae defensively, and Castro with much more power. For example in AAA Bae fielded .986 at SS in 21 games, 978 in 55 games at 2B, but has not played at 3B. Castro in AAA was .973 in 29 games at SS, .963 in 15 games at 2B, and .951 in 51 games at 3B. This was the year for the Pirates to get him acclimated to 3B, therefore an excellent young Utility IF. His fielding so far in MLB is .968 at 2B, .940 at 3B, and .934 at SS.

In the lower levels, Castro played SS/2B almost exclusively, interacting with both Oneil Cruz and Bae, so they are all very familiar with one another. That’s my 3 to go along with Hayes and whoever we arrive at to play 1B.

Anthony

I LOVE what Bae could bring to this lineup given the opportunity. Maybe Bae is your super utility guy, play him at least 5 games per week between second base and outfield. Castro could take the bulk of reps at first until a suitable alternative can replace him, while also backing up Hayes at third.

Last edited 17 days ago by Anthony
PirateRican21

I hope that if/when the time comes to trade from the MI infield depth,we make the right trade!

roberto

Agreed. A month or so ago I argued that the hard part comes now. There’s good minor league depth and some obvious MLB holes. To get good players you’ll have to trade good players.

piratemike

You can acquire good players by trading good prospects sure, but who do you get to pay them?

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