Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Malcolm Nunez’s Hot Summer

Malcolm Nunez, of the Springfield Cardinals, during opening day at Hammons Field on Friday, April 8, 2022.Openingday0559
Malcolm Nunez, of the Springfield Cardinals, during opening day at Hammons Field on Friday, April 8, 2022.Openingday0559 /

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired first base prospect Malcom Nunez at the trade deadline from the Cardinals and he’s been red hot since June.

One of the prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired at the trade deadline was first baseman, Malcom Nunez. Acquiring Nunez got the Pirates something they could use: a first base prospect, one with some power and who doesn’t have any massive red flags with his bat. Nunez came over via the Jose Quintana trade.

When the Pirates acquired Nunez, he batted .258/.358/.463 with a .366 wOBA and 110 wRC+. Nunez had just a 20.3% strikeout rate and a phenomenal 13.2% walk rate. Nunez smacked 17 home runs and had a .208 isolated slugging percentage in 350 plate appearances. Since arriving with the Pirates, he’s slashing .262/.360/.548. He has already hit four home runs in just 53 plate appearances and has seen his isolated slugging percentage rise to .286. His strikeout rate has increased to 22.6%, but his walk rate is still over 13% at 13.2%. Overall, he’s put up a .380 wOBA and 136 wRC+ for the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate.

Nunez has run into some bad luck this season, though. His .274 batting average on balls in play has led to a .256 batting average on the season. That’s still fine, given he has an on-base percentage of .360 and a walk rate over 13%, but he could be better. Nunez had a .337 batting average on balls in play and a .291 average from 2018 through 2021.

But since the start of summer, Nunez has been red hot, much better than his overall season stats say. His last 247 plate appearances have yielded a .296/.372/.568 slashline. That comes with a 10.9% walk rate and 21.9% strikeout rate. His isolated slugging in this stretch is well over .250, clocking in at .272. Nunez’s wOBA is also over .400 at .403, and his wRC+ sits just under 140 at 137. This isn’t because of good or bad batted ball luck, either. He has a .308 BAbip in this sample size, which is pretty much the league-average rate. He’s demolished 18 home runs in this span, which puts him on pace for over 35 dingers in 500 plate appearances.

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Nunez has been a strong pick-up for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first base prospect is currently mashing Double-A pitching, and it would be nice to see him get a few reps at Triple-A before the season ends. Currently, he ranks 21st in wRC+, 13th in OPS, and 16th in wOBA, making him a top 20 batter at the level (min. 400 plate appearances). Given that Altoona ends about two weeks before Triple-A Indianapolis’ season ends and Nunez’s numbers since June, he’ll likely get a glance at Triple-A pitching, along with some other top Altoona prospects, before the end of 2022.