Wetmore: What are the Twins getting with Eduardo Nunez?
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Minnesota parted ways with 20-year-old Miguel Sulbaran, a Venezuelan lefty who struck out 101 batters in 112 2/3 innings in low-A ball last season. He's the pitcher who came over from the Dodgers in the Drew Butera trade. I've read reports that Sulbaran reported to spring training overweight, but it would appear he has upside.
Nunez can be viewed as middle infield depth, and he's played every position except for catcher and center field. But he's not what you would call a steady fielder.
Phil Hughes played parts of a few seasons with Nunez in New York, and he said if Nunez plays on a consistent basis, he may be better off. The Yankees used him as a utility player, and he never got consistent at-bats.
Now, I think it's a bit of a crutch when players -- Delmon Young, anyone? -- talk about needing extra at-bats to get comfortable. So take that with a grain of salt.
Nunez will report to Triple-A Rochester, but what can Twins fans expect from the newest acquisition?
"If he makes all the plays in the field, he's a big-league-caliber guy," Hughes said of his former teammate. "It all comes down to the situation and what the [Twins'] needs are, but he can play."
"He's got a lot of tools. He can run, he can hit. He's one of those guys, if you throw him a mistake, he's going to hit it hard somewhere."
In 2013, Major League shortstops hit .254/.308/.367, a fairly offensive-starved position. Nunez hit .260/.307/.372. (Pedro Florimon hit .221/.281/.330 and Jason Bartlett was out of baseball.)
Comparing Nunez to other shortstops may be unfair, because he's never fielded like one. Florimon, for example, can't hit much but he's terrific in the field.
Defensive metrics are not yet perfect, but when taken in a large enough sample, they can help inform about a player. In 1,150 MLB innings (about 128 games), Nunez logged a poor -39 in Defensive Runs Saved, according to Fangraphs. In 539 1/3 innings (about 60 games) at third base, he's basically an average defender. Same with 100 innings at second base, although that's a very small sample when we're talking about defense.
"Some of the problems he's had in the past has just been his defense," Hughes said. "I think it was sort of unfair for him, sort of the situation he was in sometimes -- platooning at second, short, he's kind of that utility guy. It's tough when you're not playing every day and you get in there and make an error, it can kind of get in your head a little bit."
One description Hughes gave may remind Twins fans of Alexi Casilla, a recent cast-off and an enigmatic fielder. Casilla occasionally would make plays other second baseman don't make, whether it was ranging for a ball, making a strong off-balance throw or some spinning putout. And yet, with a ready-made double play ball headed in his direction, fans (and the manager) never could be sure he'd convert it into an out.
"He can sometimes take his time on a throw. Sometimes it gets away from him a little bit," Hughes said of Nunez. "That's been his issue in the past. If he can nail that part down then he's going to be all right."
"The other side of that too is he makes plays that are really spectacular plays. If he can iron out some of the routine play stuff, then he's got all of the tools to do everything else."
Can he play shortstop in the Majors?
"We'll find out," Hughes said. "He was platooning and playing when [Derek] Jeter needed an off day and stuff like that. The only real way you're going to find out is if he plays 150-plus games at the position, other than that it's all speculative."
"He could always play so I think it's a good pickup. We'll see what the plan is for him. Certainly glad have him."