Nunez was specifically acquired by the Pirates from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022 with the hope that he could take over as their first baseman of the future. After a breakout 2021 minor league season, Nunez seemed ready to push his way to Pittsburgh after the trade. However, after batting just .237 this campaign between Double-A and Triple-A, significant injury time and lack of power output have put his prospect stock into question.
Nunez possesses immense raw power potential as a corner infielder, which is why the Pirates aggressively traded for him. But so far, he has yet to show that he can consistently harness that ability against advanced upper-level pitching. There were expectations within the organization that the 22-year-old would be much further along in his development by this point. Now, the Pirates will want to see marked improvement from Nunez over the rest of 2023 and into next season.
With his power ceiling, Nunez still has ample opportunity to rebound and tap into his potential before he even turns 23 next March. However, this year's setbacks, including missed time due to injury and unproductive results when healthy, mean he faces a crucial developmental stretch ahead. For Nunez to become the middle-of-the-order force Pittsburgh envisioned, he must quickly bounce back and prove capable of handling Triple-A and MLB pitching. After a lost 2023 season, the pressure is on Nunez to regain his trajectory as one of the Pirates' most promising young hitters.