This is one in a series of stories breaking down PBN’s Top 30 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects.
Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the José Quintana deal, third baseman Malcom Nuñez lit up the minors in 2022 with 23 home runs in 119 games. 17 of those homers came in 85 games with the Springfield Cardinals, St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate, who play at Hammons Field, notorious for its close fences.
The Havana, Cuba native picked up where he left off with six home runs in 34 games for Altoona and Indianapolis, putting any speculation to bed that his power surge stemmed from Springfield’s size—all but one of his home runs with the Cardinals came at home.
Unfortunately, Nuñez wasn’t able to build on his breakout campaign in 2023. The 6 foot, 205 pound third baseman put up four home runs in 38 games to start the year, in line with his career trends as a slow starter. He never got a chance to heat up, though, as a shoulder impingement caused him to spend nearly two months on the injured list.
Nuñez strikes out a little over 20 percent of the time, but he also walks at an excellent clip. He’s a fairly well rounded hitter, although his .274 career average gets a big boost from a .415 margin—and a Dominican Summer League batting title as a result—during his first professional season in 2018.
The Pirates didn’t put Nuñez on their 40-man roster last offseason, but ended up lucky when no other team poached him away during the Rule 5 draft. With a big league ETA of 2024, it’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates roster him this offseason, or if they’ll risk losing him once again.
With Ke’Bryan Hayes manning the hot corner in Pittsburgh, there’s a roadblock ahead of Nuñez in his quest to the big leagues. As such, the Pirates played him at first base and designated hitter in 2023, positions that give him a better chance of regular playing time moving forward. The fit helps Nuñez too, as he isn’t particularly fleet of foot.