- Full name Renato Rafael Núñez
- Born 04/04/1994 in Valencia, Venezuela
- Profile Ht.: 6'1" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- Debut 09/12/2016
Organization Prospect Rankings
Nunez hit 32 homers for Triple-A Nashville in 2017, and has hit no fewer than 18 in each of his past five minor league seasons. The problem is, Nunez doesn't get the bat on the ball enough to project to make a sizable impact at the major league level, even with his power, Nunez hit .249 with the Sounds in 2017 (after hitting .228 in 2016) and struck out 141 times. Nunez rarely uses the opposite field. Though his arm is fine, Nunez doesn't have much speed, and is considered a below-average defensive player. He spent most of his first six minor league seasons as a third baseman, then split time between third and left field in 2017. He has also played a few games at first base. Nunez's power potential is real, but the time for him to make his mark in the majors is drawing near. Nunez will have a shot at winning a bench spot on the Opening Day roster, but whether he can stick will depend on the strides he makes to control the strike zone and his aggressiveness.
Nunez reached the majors in 2016, six years after being signed for $2.2 million. This is his seventh Prospect Handbook appearance, but he regressed overall on the season and faces a crossroads in his career. After a strong year at Double-A in which he cut his strikeout rate, Nunez struggled at Triple-A, in part because of a .249 average on balls in play. Still, Nunez has plus raw power, although it's mostly to his pull side, and has impact strength in his bat. But he's a below-average hitter, doesn't hit the ball to the middle or opposite field and doesn't make consistent contact. He's a below-average fielder at third base and moved to left field at Triple-A Nashville when Matt Chapman, a vastly superior defender, joined the roster. Meanwhile, Ryon Healy leapfrogged him to the big leagues. Nunez spent some time at first base in Double-A, and first and left may be his best and only paths to big league time in 2017.
A prized $2.2 million signee out of the 2010 international class, Nunez has made steady progress up the ladder. A calf injury from spring training shelved him for the month of April last season, yet he still finished as Double-A Midland's leading home run hitter with 18 in 93 games, just edging out running mate Matt Olson. Like Olson, Nunez has power as his meal ticket. Though most of his pop goes to his pull side, he nonetheless can hit balls as far as anyone. At the same time, the quality of his at-bats has improved markedly. Though he still doesn't draw a ton of walks, he struck out just 16 percent of the time in 2015, compared to 25 percent at low Class A in 2013. He can be a dead red hitter at times and takes an attacking mentality to the plate, but he has learned to dial back his approach with two strikes and gotten better about waiting for a pitch to hit. He'll never be known for his defense, but improvements in his footwork and technique have at least made him a serviceable third baseman, though making consistently accurate throws remains an issue. With Matt Chapman coming up a level behind him, a full-time move to first base, where he already splits time, may be in Nunez's future regardless. He'll team up with Olson again at Triple-A Nashville in 2016.
The Athletics signed Nunez, then a touted teenager out of Venezuela, for $2.2 million in 2010, and he's beginning to prove that initial excitement was justified. He hit .301/.351/.579 with 20 homers in the second half of 2014 at high Class A Stockton and had an impressive showing at the Futures Game, hitting a single on a 98 mph fastball from Twins righthander Alex Meyer. Nunez hit behind Matt Olson in Stockton's lineup in 2014, and his raw power is in a similar class. Balls explode off his bat, and he can hit any pitch a long way when he's going well. Nunez's approach comes and goes, but at his best, he shows he can wait on breaking pitches and use the whole field. His mechanics break down when he gets pull-happy, as was the case at the end of 2014 when he started pressing to reach 30 homers. Doubts remain about Nunez's future at third base, but he showed some encouraging signs by cutting his errors to 15 after making 39 in 2013. He's a well below-average runner and has limited range, but he's working to clean up his footwork and find a consistent release point with his strong arm. Nunez may wind up shifting to first base one day, but the A's will keep him at the hot corner in 2015 as he teams up with Olson and Daniel Robertson again at Double-A Midland.
Nunez got onto scouts' radars in August 2009 when he hit .333/.385/.583 for Venezuela at the World Youth Championship. The Athletics were already onto him, however, and signed him the following July for $2.2 million. Nunez made his full-season debut as a 19-year-old in 2013, part of a youthful, talented low Class A Beloit infield, and he hit .278/.327/.496 with 13 homers in the first half before tailing off. His power potential started turning into game power in 2013, when his 19 homers more than doubled his career total (nine) from two years in Rookie ball. Nunez has as pure a swing as any hitter in the organization. He can cover all parts of the plate and hit balls hard to all fields. He has the ingredients to hit for high averages, but right now he's overly aggressive and too often gets himself in bad counts. Scouts have doubted Nunez's glove going back to his amateur days, and it remains an issue after he made 39 errors in 2013, the most among Midwest League third basemen. He does have a strong enough arm, but his hands and footwork are rough and his throwing accuracy erratic. A below-average runner, he's not a great athlete either, so Nunez's bat will have to carry him. He'll step up to high Class A Stockton in 2014.
The A's kept a watchful eye on Nunez since he was 13 and signed him for $2.2 million as soon as he was eligible as a 16-year-old on July 2, 2010. After an underwhelming pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2011, he had a big summer in the Arizona League in his 2012 U.S. debut, tying for second in the league in RBIs (42) and ranking fifth in slugging (.550). Nunez has a chance to have an impact bat, displaying above-average bat speed with the torque and leverage in his swing for power potential. He doesn't get cheated either, taking aggressive hacks. He did make progress last year with shortening his swing and not flying open, and he shows feel for hitting. Nunez is a below-average runner and defender. He works hard on his third base play and has shown improvement. His arm is strong and accurate enough to keep him at the hot corner, but he makes too many careless errors and has to focus better. Nunez should step up to Vermont in 2013.
The A's scouted Nunez for three years before signing him for $2.2 million once he became eligible on July 2, 2010. In his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, he didn't post dominant numbers and was plagued by injuries, the most notable a concussion after being hit in the head with a pitch. Nunez has a balanced swing with tremendous bat control and a good swing path. Oakland believes he'll have power to all fields and he shows leverage in his swing, but it hasn't translated into results yet outside of batting practice. Nunez didn't focus much on his defense before signing and has some catching up to do on that side of the ball. He spent a lot of time working on his foot speed and agility last year, and they're getting closer to average. He has solid hands and average arm strength. The A's brought Nunez to the United States in the fall for instructional league. He didn't have much success on the field there, but they didn't expect him to and the purpose was more to get his feet wet than anything else. He'll return to the States in 2012 for spring training and then an assignment to the Rookie-level Arizona League.
The A's have been aggressive on the international amateur market in recent years, with Nunez their latest prize after signing for $2.2 million last July 2. He attracted attention for his performance with the Venezuelan squad at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan in August 2009, when he hit .333/.385/.583 in seven games, but Oakland had scouted him for three years. The A's are buying into Nunez's bat, which shows plenty of promise. He has a balanced, fluid swing, giving him outstanding bat control and the ability to get the barrel on the ball consistently. His swing has leverage and he has plus raw power for his age. That power should come into play in games as he matures physically. International scouts doubted Nunez's ability to stick at third base long term, but Oakland will allow him to play his way off the position. He has the arm for the hot corner, but his hands, agility and footwork all need improvement if he's going to remain there. He has a long ways to go, but Nunez could become one of Oakland's best hitting prospects. He'll probably make his pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2011, with his U.S. debut planned for the following year.
Minor League Top Prospects
Much like teammate Matt Olson--whom he usually batted behind in the Midland lineup--Nunez's power has been neutered by Security Bank Ballpark. But scouts believe the adjustments he made in terms of two-strike approach and swing trajectory make it more likely he can be a solid-average hitter and not simply a slugger. While Olson's homers are majestic parabolas, Nunez belts line drives that hit or clear the wall. He has shown the ability to drive the ball the other way and let the breaking ball travel deep into the hitting zone. Nunez swings hard--perhaps harder than anyone in the TL--but now can reel himself in with two strikes better than in the past. He drastically cut back his strikeout rate this season, dropping it from 20 percent to 16 percent. In terms of defense at third base, Nunez has improved his efficiency, but he still finished 2015 with a poor .909 fielding average. He has solid-average arm strength, enough to play third base, but his throws can be erratic at times. "His power is as good as anybody's, but he's going to be a hitter," one TL coach said. "He has the ability to hit .290 with 20-something homers.""
Charged with hitting behind Matt Olson in Stockton's lineup, Nunez overcame a slow start to be nearly as prolific as Olson in the second half, belting 20 homers from the midpoint on, just behind Olson's 22. Nunez has plenty of strength, and his homers come in all shapes and sizes, both line drives and towering shots. Some observers questioned whether Nunez was simply a mistake hitter who had trouble handling offspeed pitches. By the end of the season, however, he made progress in terms of showing he could wait for breaking balls to come to him and take them the other way. He also developed a better feel for simply learning to take a base hit rather than trying to hit everything out. Nunez drastically cut down on his errors, going from 40 at low Class A in 2013 to just 15 this year. His footwork still leads to erratic throws, but his hands are good and he has the pure arm strength for third base. His size and questionable athleticism might make him a first baseman in the end, however.
Another international bonus baby, Nunez signed for $2.2 million in 2010. His 2011 pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League earned mixed reviews, especially related to his plate discipline and defense, but he showed steady improvement during extended spring training and in the AZL this year. He's still just 18 and learning what kind of player he can become. Nunez's biggest asset always will be his bat, which should play at other positions if needed. He has a good feel for hitting, slightly above-average bat speed and raw power to all fields. His swing has natural loft and an ability to generate backspin. Nunez worked hard on his defense and showed some improvement, but he still needs more consistency after making seven errors in 30 games. His range is limited and he lacks quick reactions and hands. He always plays hard and has an aggressive personality.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the Oakland Athletics in 2018