Pittsburgh Pirates: Injured Prospects Who Can Still Make an Impact in the Future

While these prospects are hurt now, they could still make an impact in the near future

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
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Malcom Nuñez

Like Barco, Malcom Nuñez technically isn’t injured. However, Nuñez just returned to action and is still in rehab at the time of writing this. Nuñez made his way over from the St. Louis Cardinals in the José Quintana deal. Nunez had a strong finale in 2022 and started to look like he was recapturing his bat in the weeks leading up to his IL placement in late May.

2022 summer treated Nunez well, as he hit .294/.380/.533 with a .396 wOBA, and 136 wRC+ between the Pirate and Cardinal minor league affiliates. Nuñez had a respectable 22% strikeout rate but walked at a 12% pace. Power is Nuñez’s calling card, and he showed that off as he swatted 20 home runs and posted a .239 isolated slugging percentage during his summer stretch. 

In the month of May 2023, prior to landing on the IL, Nuñez was batting .357/.478/.536 with a .456 wOBA, and 163 wRC+. Nunez upped his walk rate to 14.7% while cutting his strikeout down slightly to 21.7%. This was only a 69 plate appearance sample, but Nunez looked like he found his groove after a rough April that saw him end the month with a .490 OPS, .225 wOBA, and 16 wRC+. He’s returned to action at the Pirates’ FCL affiliate, where he’s played two games with eight plate appearances in total. He has racked up two hits and has drawn three walks without striking out yet.

Nuñez came up in the Cardinal system as a third baseman. However, he transitioned over to the other side of the diamond last year. The Pirates haven’t fully given up on Nuñez as a third baseman, however. He has the arm and looked to make some improvements with his glove throughout the off-season. But with Jared Triolo and Ke’Bryan Hayes, getting Nuñez regular reps at third base in the majors will be difficult. 

There’s always risk in guys who need to hit to become successful major leaguers. But so far, Nuñez has hit for the Pirates. The Bucs do have a potential long-term opening at first base, so Nuñez has a path to Major League playing time. He’s only 22, but if he keeps hitting well, you very well could see him as the team's regular first baseman by the end of 2024. He probably already would have played in the Majors had it not been for his injury.