Malcom Nunez: Professional Hitter
The words that kept coming up to describe 17-year-old Cuban third baseman Malcom Nunez were "professional hitter.”
The Cardinals, who maxed out for a $300,000 bonus to sign Nunez in July, saw a frame built for future power and a swing made for giddy projections, but they didn’t know for sure until he started playing in the Dominican Summer League.
That’s when their "professional hitter” became a propulsive talent.
Nunez hit five home runs in a six-game span in the DSL and helped drive his team to the Cardinals’ first ever berth in that league's playoffs. Along the way he hit .415/.497/.774 and won the DSL triple crown with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs.
"He’s not a one-dimensional player who has the raw power,” director of international operations Luis Morales said. "He has strength. He’ll hit for power. But he always understands the strike zone. Especially for a hitter that young to see that recognition. He’s a very professional hitter.”
As the Cardinals pushed to be a greater presence in Cuba, they made sure to staff tournaments wherever Cuba’s international teams played, including ones featuring potential future signings as young teenagers.
Nunez was a player the Cardinals had ample reports on. Area scout Alix Martinez and supervisor Angel Ovalles oversaw the evaluation and recruitment of Nunez, knowing that past spending on international talents limited what the Cardinals could offer. He signed soon after the international singing period opened and immediately starred in the DSL.
The Cardinals saw the benefit of Nunez’s international experience and studiousness. He had a crispness to his habits that come from higher competition.
The Cardinals see Nunez as a third baseman—at least initially—with an average arm. The 6-foot, 210-pound righthanded hitter stands out from his peers for a swing that stays in the hitting zone and isn't geared solely for showcase power.
He already has worked at the Cardinals' facility in Jupiter, Fla., which introduces him to many of the organization's coaches.
"We definitely have to keep in mind that he’s 17,” Morales said. "What he did in the DSL is unbelievable. Amazing, really. Everything now is projection. We like how that looks.”
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