Pirates Still Seek Stability At Short
Nunez selected in Rule 5 draft
PITTSBURGH—The Pirates have been so bereft of talent at shortstop for so long that anyone with a glove looks inviting.
Gustavo Nunez, the 23-year-old prospect they plucked from the Tigers in the major league Rule 5 draft, most definitely has the glove. He was the best defensive shortstop in the high Class A Florida State League in 2010, blessed with exceptional footwork and arm strength.
That will be a welcome addition to the system, but the only way Nunez will crack the Pirates' 25-man roster out of spring training—if he doesn't, the Pirates must offer him back to the Tigers—is if he shows at least a little something at the plate.
That's no certainty. Nunez looked like a rising star in 2009 when he batted .315/.360/.425 in low Class A, but that plunged to .222/.263/.281 in 2010, and he looked impatient and punchless. He opened 2011 repeating the FSL and hit well, but his first taste of Double-A brought a .215/.252/.289 line.
"He`s got the classic defensive profile for a young shortstop, with the ability to field, throw and run," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Assuming health, assuming he comes in and shows us enough bat, he's a weapon when he comes off the bench. We recognize the challenges he faced at Double-A with the bat, and we also recognize that he finished the season on the disabled list."
Nunez's season ended Aug. 11 with an ankle injury, one he still is rehabilitating.
The Pirates' starting shortstop will be Clint Barmes, but competition is thin behind that. Management would like to see prospect Chase d'Arnaud get more seasoning in Triple-A after he hit .264/.328/.389 in 288 at-bats there last year. He did play in 48 big league games, hitting .217/.242/287 with six doubles and 12 stolen bases.
• One of the Pirates' picks in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 was lefthander Aaron Poreda, a first-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2007 who has been beset by control problems. "We were kind of shocked to see him available," director of baseball operations Tyrone Brooks said.
• The Pirates acquired infielder Yamaico Navarro from the Royals in a three-prospect trade that sent righthander Brooks Pounders and infielder Diego Goris to the Royals. Navarro, 24, batted .264/.344/.436 in Triple-A last season.