Cardinals Sign Flamethrower From Dominican Republic
The Cardinals have a new teenage prospect in their organization with a fastball that reaches 100 mph.
Edwin Nuñez, an 18-year-old rigthander from the Dominican Republic, signed with the Cardinals for $525,000. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Nuñez had emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in the 2019-20 class with a projectable, broad-shouldered build, quick arm speed and a fastball that was reaching the mid-90s. In more recent months, his velocity increased, dialing into the upper 90s and peaking at 100 mph.
Signing with the Cardinals ends an extended waiting period that Nuñez faced after Major League Baseball previously declared him ineligible to sign for one year due to an issue regarding his age. Now presenting himself as one year older than he had been earlier, Nuñez would have become eligible to sign in April, but couldn't because all international signings were temporarily banned due to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
In the Dominican Republic, where 16 is the age players become eligible to sign, 18-year-old players are often considered older or "passed over" players. But Nuñez is the same age as most high school seniors in the United States who were drafted this month. Only one of those high school draft picks—Padres righthander Justin Lange, a supplemental first-round pick (No. 34 overall) who, according to Jim Callis, agreed to sign for $2 million—has reached 100 mph. A handful of others, including Cardinals second-round pick Masyn Winn, have reached the upper 90s.
Nuñez has an elite fastball, pairing it with a curveball that he shows feel for that has sharp break at times, though it's still inconsistent and can get slurvy, along with a changeup he hasn't needed to throw much yet. He trained with Juan Rodriguez.
The Cardinals' signing of Nuñez fits a playbook they have drawn success from over the years in signing pitchers in the Dominican Republic who are older than 16. They signed Carlos Martinez (who also served a suspension prior to signing) when he was 18. Alex Reyes was another 18-year-old Cardinals signing, while righthanders Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez both signed at 17.
MLB began allowing teams to sign international free agents again Friday. The current (2019-20) signing period, which was originally scheduled to close on June 15, has been extended until Oct. 15. The next signing period, which would have opened on July 2 this year, has been delayed until Jan. 15, 2021.