With September call ups upon us, should the Pittsburgh Pirates look to promote first base prospect Malcolm Nuñez?
Signing & Trade to Pittsburgh
Following an impressive 2016 season with the Cuba U15 team, Malcolm Nuñez made the decision to sign with the Cardinals in 2018, receiving a signing bonus of $300,000. Then, on August 1st, 2022, he was part of a trade with Johan Oviedo to the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the Pirates sending José Quintana and Chris Stratton to the Cardinals in return.
Right from the beginning of his professional career, Nuñez showcased his power-hitting ability. In just 44 games with the Cardinal Dominican Summer League team in 2018, he belted an impressive 13 home runs and drove in 59 runs. Additionally, his eye for the strike zone was shown as he walked 26 times while striking out only 29 times. Nunez posted an impressive batting average of .415, highlighting his immense potential.
During the 2019 season, Nuñez faced challenges, hitting just 2 home runs in 58 games with 18 RBIs. It was a rather disappointing season, marked by struggles with the strike zone as he struck out 47 times and walked only 18 times. His batting average saw a significant drop to .229, indicating that his path to advancing to higher levels of the minors would likely be gradual.
The 2020 season fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, the development of prospects was hindered from reaching new levels.
The 2021 season held promise for Nuñez as he took on challenges in both High-A and Double-A. However, he continued to face difficulties with his power for a second consecutive season. Despite this, his batting average improved to a respectable .268. Over the course of 89 games at both levels, he managed to hit 9 home runs and tally 39 RBIs.
2022 Season + Trade
To start the season, Nuñez played for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. There, he recorded a .255 batting average along with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs in 85 games. Although he demonstrated the potential for a promotion, the Cardinals were worried, believing he might not be fully prepared for the next level. During this time, Nuñez displayed an uptick in walks but maintained a consistent number of strikeouts, all while experiencing a slight decline in his batting average.
Following his trade to Pittsburgh, Nuñez began his journey with the Double-A Altoona Curve, where he played in 29 games. He continued to showcase his talent, hitting 5 home runs and accumulating 21 RBIs. Despite registering 17 walks and 27 strikeouts, his primary challenge remained managing strikeouts. Nevertheless, his improved batting average of .286 signaled that it was time for a promotion to Triple-A.
While at Triple-A Indianapolis, he appeared in just 5 games, managing to hit 1 home run, which accounted for his sole RBI. His performance was a bit uneven, going 3 for 13 at the plate, but he compensated with 4 walks to offset the lower batting average.
Throughout the 2023 season, Nuñez has showcased his game playing in Rookie Ball, Low-A, High-A, and Triple-A, amassing a total of 65 games across these four levels. He has consistently impressed, delivering 7 home runs, 40 RBIs, and maintaining an average of .260 as of September 1st. His slash line stands at .260 for batting average, .352 for on-base percentage, and a .394 for slugging, resulting in a strong .746 OPS. With these impressive stats, it appears likely that he may earn a call-up to the majors in the coming season, as the time keeps ticking down for this season.