The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired their best first base prospect at the trade deadline in Malcom Nuñez. Sent from the Cardinals with Johan Oviedo for José Quintana and Chris Stratton, Nunez looked great in his first games in the Pirate organization.
Through 143 plate appearances, Nunez batted .280/.385/.475 with a .378 wOBA and 135 wRC+. Nuñez’s 22.4% strikeout rate isn’t terrible, but it’s not great, either. But he offsets that with a phenomenal 14.7% walk rate. After arriving at his new organization, Nuñez hit six home runs and provided Altoona and Indianapolis with a .195 isolated slugging percentage. Nuñez really picked up the production when summer hit, having a .913 OPS, .396 wOBA, and 136 wRC+ from the start of June through the end of the year.
Nuñez mostly played first base this year but has seen plenty of time at the hot corner. But his defense at third base is below average at best. First base and designated hitter is his long-term home, given he’s just a 30-grade runner and would not fare well in the grass.
Still, the upside for Nuñez is there. He could be a .280 hitter who provides a high OBP and 25 home runs at first base. His defense at first base may not be Gold Glove level, but if he can be average, he’ll do just fine. Plus, the Pittsburgh Pirates can mitigate any defensive issues that arise with Nunez by splitting his time at first base and DH.
As stated earlier, Nuñez may be at the top of the first base depth chart, but both Davis and Rodriguez could see time at the position. Diego Castillo also saw some time at first base at the end of the season. Still, if the Pirates have three guys capable of handling first base, at least in a semi-regular capacity, Castillo isn’t much more than an emergency option.