Is Nunez the Orioles' answer at third? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Is Nunez the Orioles’ answer at third?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

While the Orioles season came to its merciful conclusion, one player performed well with almost no one noticing.

Renato Nunez, who the Orioles recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to replace Manny Machado on the roster after the All-Star break trade, had statistics that bear closer scrutiny.

Nunez was acquired off waivers from the Texas Rangers on May 13, and went to the Tides.

When Machado was traded, many assumed that utility infielder Breyvic Valera, who was part of the package the Orioles received from the Los Angeles Dodgers, would take the superstar’s place.

Instead, it was Nunez, who had 30 games of major league experience with Texas and Oakland over the past three seasons.

The 24-year-old hit just .174 in seven July games, but hit .268 with a .360 on-base percentage in August, and batted .313 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in September.

In 60 games with the Orioles, Nunez batted .275 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs and a .336 OBP.

His Wins Above Replacement with the Orioles was 1.3, better than Adam Jones’ .2 and Trey Mancini’s -.1.

Nunez’s defense at third base looked shaky at first, but he worked hard with infield coach Bobby Dickerson, and his Defensive WAR was actually .1 even though he committed seven errors.

Some of his numbers were quirky. He hit just .235 at Oriole Park and none of his seven homers came there. But his on-base percentage was .350 at home, higher than it was on the road.

Nunez started 56 games at third, more than any other player, and while two others who started there, Jace Peterson and Steve Wilkerson are back, Nunez will have the advantage.

Peterson is back on a minor league contract, and might have to battle Wilkerson, another utility player, for a spot.

The Orioles don’t have a qualified third baseman in the minor leagues close to being ready.

Drew Dosch, the third baseman at Norfolk the past two seasons, hit decently but was subpar defensively. With a record 56 players used by the talent-hungry team, Dosch was never a consideration.

Ryan Mountcastle, the 36th overall pick in the 2015 draft, who was initially tried at shortstop, was converted to third base in 2017, and failed to impress.

Mountcastle made 16 errors in 81 games at Double-A Bowie and had a .912 fielding percentage. His bat could be a major league one. Mountcastle hit .297 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs at Bowie.

Former Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette was convinced Mountcastle could play third base in the major leagues. He was apparently the only one in the organization who felt that way.

With Mike Elias now in charge, he’ll have the call on where to play Mountcastle. He may be tried in left field or at first base. While few young players come to the major leagues as a designated hitter, Mountcastle could do that.

The 21-year-old wasn’t called up to the Orioles in September because they didn’t want to start his service clock prematurely. Mountcastle doesn’t have to be placed on the 40-man roster until next fall.

In January 2014, the Orioles thought they had signed a future star in 16-year-old Jomar Reyes.

Reyes has failed to impress and has spent the last three seasons at High-A Frederick.

In 2018, Reyes made 26 errors at third in 101 games for an abysmal fielding percentage of .889. Despite the Orioles’ high hopes for Reyes, his bat hasn’t made up for his fielding. Last season, Reyes hit .262 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs.

Unless the Orioles sign or trade for another third baseman, and it looks as if Nunez will be the Opening Day starter next season.

Alvarez leaves organization

Pedro Alvarez, who started five games at third base in 2018, signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins this week.

Alvarez signed one-year contracts with the Orioles during each of the last three spring trainings.

He was the second overall pick in the 2008 major league draft and led the National League with 36 home runs in 2013 for Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn’t tender him a contract after the 2015 season, and he was a valuable addition to the 2016 Orioles.

Alvarez hit 22 home runs in 2016, tried to learn the outfield at Norfolk in 2017, and after that didn’t work out, he returned to the Orioles again in 2018.

After hitting .180 in 45 games, the Orioles outrighted him to the Tides, where he finished the season.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. ZantiGM

    December 6, 2018 at 7:40 am

    The O’s will sign a free a gent 3B
    Nunez will get a look in ST and may play some OF in B games
    Wilkerson may get a look at 3B too

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 9:07 am

      I think they have enough outfielders to look at, Phil. They need infielders.

      • ZantiGM

        December 6, 2018 at 10:10 am

        Only said that if O’s might consider him a utility player-3B/2B/LF

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 10:42 am

      They have Wilkerson and Peterson who fit in that mix.

  2. boss61

    December 6, 2018 at 7:47 am

    I’m happy enough with Nunez for now. He is not a contender-caliber player, but the O’s were not contenders when I started typing this comment (did something change?). In the shatterred windfield that is our collection of player personnel, he is one of the larger chunks you can still see through. I’d address third base in future years. Right now there are bigger issues.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 9:08 am

      Yes, Mark, there are bigger issues. Many bigger issues.

    • Pip

      December 6, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      That’s a really good metaphor

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 6, 2018 at 7:55 am

    At age 26, I don’t think it wise to waste too much time seeing what Valera is all about. Although Nunez is servicable, I’d rather see what we traded for.

    I simply don’t see the team opting for the free agency route here. The new theme (aka the Houston blueprint), seems to be to bide it’s time for the foreseeable future and suffer the losses while building a base.

    But, who knows, maybe they’ll find a gem or 2 along the way in the likes of Nunez or some other unknown.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 9:09 am

      I think that’s what they’re trying to do here, Boog.

  4. bats in the blefary

    December 6, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Nunez is still young, played decently enough, has a chance to hit, was a top prospect not long ago and has little competition. And the Orioles will NOT sign a 3B. Play the kid. They lost 155 games ;ast year. Let’s see what we have with him.

    • Fareastern89

      December 6, 2018 at 9:00 am

      I agree. It’ll be all about the numbers from now on, and Nuñez’s numbers as presented here (thanks for the info, Rich) look better than I would have expected. And Bats — I assume you meant 115 losses, even though it may have seemed like 155.

      • Rich Dubroff

        December 6, 2018 at 9:12 am

        Fareastern, I was surprised when I looked at the numbers, too.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 9:06 am

      It only seemed as if they lost 155 games, Bats!

      • bats in the blefary

        December 7, 2018 at 4:42 pm

        Maybe I was thinking ahead to ’19. 🙂

    • Lookouts400

      December 7, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Agreed!! I like his bat, his defense seems workable. See what you’ve got, now’s the time to see, not just at third, but all over the roster, Mullins, Stewart, Carroll, Phillips, so many more. The Orioles system is better than what it showed and I can’t help but feeling that the general malaise that infected the major league club filtered down throughout the system. I hope they don’t get to obsessed with trying to win ten more games next year(though I think they’ll win plenty more). With Schoopy off the table, go get Iglesias and give the young, (and not so young pitchers) a fighting chance! Iggy can only help Nunez at third.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Lookouts, I’m eager to see what moves they make over the winter before I pass any judgements.

  5. Orial

    December 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Of the potential 3rd base options you mentioned Nunez sits at top. Not a fan of his though. 3rd base defensively is something that should come naturally(with a few coaching tweaks) not be an overhaul(Dickerson/Nunez). Interesting look at the error compilation that potential Orioles 3rd basemen seem to stack up. Makes for another look at questionable draft/development choices these last few years. Whenever I see another player(Mountcastle) projected for LF/1B I cringe. Thank God Elias is here. I think the future 3rd baseman is still off the radar. Bobby Witt at third anyone?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Orial, I think you’re right about the future third baseman not being in the organization currently.

      • DC1001

        December 6, 2018 at 7:53 pm

        Rich do you see them trying Mountcastle at 2nd ? With Mancini at 1b and all their promising OF prospects, it seems like the options are limited .

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 11:39 pm

      DC, I do not think a move to second would be helpful to Mountcastle or the Orioles. Nothing wrong with trying him in the outfield. None of the prospects have proven anything at the major league level.

  6. JoeFundo

    December 6, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Mike Elias wins Executive of the Year if 10 months from now his organization, roster and checkbook are not saddled with R. Bleier, A. Cashner, A.,Cobb, M. Wright, A. Susac, C. Davis, M. Trumbo, C. Joseph, J. Polanco, A. Pérez, G. Rosa, S. Schoop, R. Tejada, L.J. Hoes, and D’Arby Myers.

    That is not meant to be disparaging to those players. Rather, at their age, they are no longer a fit for this organization.

    As difficult as that may be, if Bleier is healthy and productive, he has trade value in July. If Cashner, Cobb, and Trumbo are healthy and productive, they have trade value. Unless a new pitching instruction staff in Baltimore gets him on track, Mike Wright is taking up a spot on the 40 man roster. If they fix him, he becomes trade value. Unless a new hitting instruction staff in Baltimore gets Chris Davis back on track, he and his contract are an albatross to the re-build. If they fix him, perhaps there is trade value. That is a big perhaps, with that contract. The others are organizational players who again, based on their age, are no longer a fit.

    That is my prayerful wish for Mike Elias, the Orioles, and Orioles fans.

    • Pip

      December 6, 2018 at 11:27 am

      Completely agree except that Wright has shown what he is and he’s bad. He might improve with another organization it he’s terrible with us and should be allowed to try again somewhere else.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      Joe, I believe the last eight players you mentioned are not currently in the organization., and I think you’ve taken care of the other seven.

  7. Pip

    December 6, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I signed on to say no, because defense is the most important thing for me. But after reading that his defense has improved to at least neutral, my comment is,” if his defense is the best available, give him the spot.”
    All of these questions are simply answered. Defense first.
    That means no Mancini in Left or Trumbo in right or Beckham at short or Sisco at catcher. One of those has already happened, we’re waiting on the others. But Nunez at 3B? Sure why not.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Pip, I think that for now, Nunez stays. I will be interested to see what player moves come between now and spring training, and perhaps in the early days of spring training.

  8. whiterose

    December 6, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    simple answer…..
    no

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      simple answer to you, whiterose, thanks!

  9. willmiranda

    December 6, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Vaya con Dios, Pedro!

  10. Rich Dubroff

    December 6, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Hasta la vista, Will!

  11. cedar

    December 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I think many of us were so busy watching Villar to notice Nunez stats. Based on the above, it seems like a sound decision to give Nunez a chance to show what he can do. I agree with others. There are larger problems that need the team’s attention.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 11:40 pm

      Thanks for weighing in, Cedar.

  12. DC1001

    December 6, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    I think he’s worth a look. Mountcastle certainly isn’t ready at this point and considering Baltimore won’t contend , it’s a perfect time to experiment a bit.

  13. BirdsCaps

    December 6, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Even though we all knew it was coming, hearing AAAA caliber players like Nunez getting mentioned as possible starters is always discouraging. These are the types of moves that we made in the dark ages of 2000-2011. Hopefully it’ll be worth it in a few years. Ironically (since we ended up raiding the Houston Front Office), an Astros fan came up to me during the last game of the season and said it is nice to see Baltimore still showing up to games, even though the season was a dud. He also was much more optimistic than I was (which isn’t hard to do) about the future of the Birds, saying we could probably contend in 2-3 yrs, since his beloved ‘Stros rebuild wasn’t really that long. Even though names like Nunez make me cringe, hopefully the Houston fan was right and our rebuild won’t be a long one.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2018 at 11:41 pm

      I think by 2021, you should see some real improvement, BirdsCaps.

      • BirdsCaps

        December 7, 2018 at 12:39 am

        I hope and pray you are correct, Rich

  14. mlbbirdfan

    December 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

    PS: Schoop is gone. Signed by MINN for one year $7.5 million

  15. Bhoffman1

    December 7, 2018 at 9:30 am

    There has to be a position for Mouncastle to play . He’s too young to be a DH and if he can really hit holding him at Norfolk another year is counterproductive. Nunez was a pleasant surprise the last month. If he can play like that atleast DD one good thing before he left . Trading Gausman for some money we can’t use is something among many trades that I hate DD

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      Bhoffman, Mountcastle has yet to play at Triple-A, so I think he’ll play there this year.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 7, 2018 at 6:06 pm

      Sorry about that miscue but if he hits at Norfolk bring him up dont wait till next year. We need players that will make fans want to come to the park not Just fill ins

  16. Bhoffman1

    December 7, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Got cut off. As for Alvarez I hope he loses 20 pounds and makes it again in Miami. He can hit if he plays regularly. If it’s true Schoop is gone to Minn. that’s disappointing. I know we want to reduce payroll except for the albatross Davis and built like Houston but they are not in the same division as Yankees and Boston who open the vault every year.

  17. rickytrommer

    December 8, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I like the potential infield of Mancini, Villar, Rule V pick Martin, and Nunez. Perhaps Sisco can develop into a good hit – first backup catcher. I think it’s an indictment of Mountcastle that he hasn’t moved above AA ball yet. Someone please find a position for the young man. And let’s see what an outfield of Diaz, Hayes and Mullins can do. We’re projected to select the best catcher in the draft, this coming spring. With all the arms we have stockpiled, that makes for a good start to the rebuild. All we need now is a few stars. (And there’s your reality check.)

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 9, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      I think 2019 will feature many of the players you’re suggesting, and many more. Next season is likely to be challenging, Ricky.

  18. Hallbe62

    December 9, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    I wouldn’t give up on Mountcastle just yet . And Nunez’s sample size (60 games) is too small.

    Imo….Nunez plays 3rd in 2019 and look for Mountcastle in 2020.

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