No fewer than 50 players hit 31 or more home runs in 2019. Renato Nunez was one of them.
Nunez is one of the more understated members of the Orioles, and many fans probably overlooked his power display. Nunez’s 31 homers and 90 RBIs trailed only Trey Mancini in those categories, but he isn’t mentioned among key Orioles.
Part of the lack of attention is because many viewed last season as an offensive aberration in Major League Baseball.
However, Nunez, who played in his first full major league season last year, had shown off power numbers in the minor leagues.
In 2017, Nunez hit 32 home runs in 126 games for Triple-A Nashville in the Oakland organization. That followed 23 homers for the ‘Sounds in 2016. In High-A Stockton in the California League, Nunez hit 29 home runs in 2014.
The question about Nunez’s value is a real one. He was the Orioles’ starting designated hitter in 109 games and got 21 starts at third and eight at first.
Baseballreference.com assigns Nunez a 1.1 WAR. Nunez’s Fangraph’s WAR is .6.
A major league scout says Nunez is “basically a DH that’s got power … a decent enough hitter with power.”
Nunez had 143 strikeouts and 44 walks in 151 games. His batting average was .244.
For three weeks in May, Nunez cratered, going 3-for-47. In July, Nunez had by far his best month, hitting .304 with a .955 OPS. He had seven home runs and 19 RBIs.
The Orioles are loaded with players who can play first base the scout points out — Mancini, Nunez, Chris Davis and, when he’s moved up to the big leagues, Ryan Mountcastle.
If Nunez has another hot season, he might be a trade chip.
“I think he’s an American League player,” the scout said. He can play first, but at first, he’s a defensive liability.
Because home runs were so plentiful last year, and Nunez had never had so much playing time, it’s hard to get a true read on him.
“It was really difficult last year when you’re looking at players to project,” the scout said. “He still has upside. I think teams would have some interest in him.”
Nunez, 25, was one of Dan Duquette’s more overlooked acquisitions. He was claimed on waivers by the Orioles from Texas on May 13, 2018.
When Manny Machado was traded two months later, Nunez replaced him on the roster.
He hit .275 in 60 games, but made seven errors in 59 games at shortstop.
Former Orioles fall short of Hall: Curt Schilling, who earned the first of his 216 major league wins with the Orioles, came close to being elected to the Hall of Fame in the results announced Tuesday night.
Schilling received 70 percent of the vote, five percent short of the 75 percent required for election.
He continued to climb closer. In 2018, he received 51.2 percent, and 60.9 percent a year ago.
Schilling has two more years of eligibility in the Baseball Writers’ of America Association voting and will be the top returning candidate next year, when there will be no top-shelf debuts in the election.
Schilling, whose political comments have damaged his reputation, has been mum this time around, and it seems to have helped his cause.
Sammy Sosa, also in his eighth year of eligibility, received 13.9 percent of the vote, the highest he’s gotten.
Brian Roberts did not get any votes.
Over the previous two years, five former Orioles — Harold Baines, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith and Jim Thome were elected.
In next year’s balloting, Schilling and Sosa could be joined on the ballot by former Orioles relievers Kevin Gregg and LaTroy Hawkins. Gregg and Hawkins must first pass through a screening committee.
This year, Nate McLouth and Joe Saunders failed to get enough support from the screening committee to make the BBWAA ballot.
A return for the Budman? Bud Norris, who had a career year for the Orioles in 2014 and has pitched for five other teams since then, has reportedly signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Norris was in spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 but didn’t pitch competitively last season.
In 2014, Norris was 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA but was released by the Orioles in August 2015 after he fell to a 2-9 record and 7.06 ERA.
Since leaving the Orioles, Norris has pitched for San Diego, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, and St. Louis.