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Malcom Nuñez Enters The Pirates' First Base Picture

The Pirates were scouting Cuban third baseman Malcom Nuñez heavily in 2018, prior to his signing with the Cardinals on July 2.

“The Pirates are a team I always wanted to play for,” Nuñez said via a translator, thinking back to the time when he signed.

The 5-foot11, 205-pound Nuñez eventually joined the Cardinals for $300,000. The Pirates made an offer of their own.

“Unfortunately, my agent at the time didn’t accept or counter (the Pirates’) offer,” Nuñez said.

Nuñez finally joined the Pirates last summer, along with fellow Cuban Johan Oviedo, in a deal for Jose Quintana.

What stood out with Nuñez in 2022 was his power. He hit .262/.367/.466 with 23 home runs in 119 games, most of them at Double-A for the Cardinals and Pirates. He had hit just nine homers in 89 Double-A games in 2021.

The 22-year old credited the improvements to his strength program and to having a more controlled swing. Nuñez also increased his walk rate from 9.4% to 13.7% with the controlled approach.

Nuñez spent the majority of his time at first base in 2022.

“I feel comfortable playing first base,” said Nuñez. “I feel capable of playing third base, too.”

The Pirates seek production at first base. They added veterans Carlos Santana, Ji-Man Choi and Connor Joe this offseason to solve the position in 2023. Nuñez reached Triple-A at the end of 2022 and will begin there in 2023.

The Pirates have Gold Glove finalist Ke’Bryan Hayes at third base, as well as two-time minor league Gold Glove winner Jared Triolo in Triple-A. Nuñez is more likely to reach Pittsburgh at first base.

If he builds on his improvements in power and plate patience, Nuñez could have a shot to factor into the first base mix in Pittsburgh by the end of 2023.


— The Pirates signed Andrew McCutchen, bringing back their former franchise icon at the end of his career. McCutchen joins Carlos Santana, Austin Hedges, Rich Hill, Ji-Man Choi and Vince Velasquez as veteran leaders on a young team that lost 100 games in 2022. The Pirates will have a lot of prospects at Triple-A Indianapolis this year, led by No. 1 prospect Endy Rodriguez. They will be led by veterans at the start of the year who should yield way to the younger players as the season progresses.

— Righthander Johan Oviedo, acquired by the Pirates with Malcom Nunez, posted a 3.23 ERA in seven starts with Pittsburgh at the end of the 2022 season. He flashed a fastball that averaged 96 mph and topped out at 99, along with a slider that generated an 18% whiff rate. Oviedo is expected to be an early season depth option for the Pirates’ rotation at Triple-A and could work himself into the long-term rotation with a repeat of his 2022 success.

Malcom Nunez (Mike Janes Four Seam Images)

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